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CLASS OF 1876 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 


On Active Service Series 

Cornell University Library 
D 549.CSK64 

With the Chinlcs, 

3 1924 022 973 196 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS fig fig ffi ffi 











I FEEL that a word of apology is due to the 
reader for the disjointed character of this 
Httle book. When in China I joined the 
Chinese Labour Corps I kept a diary at first, 
recording fairly fully my impressions of the 
work from day to day. These impressions 
covered what progress we made in training 
the coolies ; also I endeavoured to record 
the coolies' point of view, what they thought 
of us, their new masters, and of this their 
new life in the C.L.C. To begin with I had 
no story to tell, but once away from camp in 
China, embarked on what I am calling the 
Interminable Journey, the germ of narrative 
crept into my diary and I found myself 
spinning something of a yarn — the yarn, in 
fact, of our voyage from China to France. 

The diary, which is printed practically as 
I wrote it, covers the training period in 
China (two months) and crossing the Pacific. 
The narrative begins with our long stay in 


Canada (ten weeks), and grows with the un- 
expected passage of the Panama Canal, a 
few delightful days in Kingston, Jamaica, a 
few delightful hours in New York, and so 
onward across the now haunted Atlantic to 
France. This long journey gave me many 
an opportunity to observe the mental shock 
and change which a coohe suffers as he leaves 
the placid East and is shown the brilliant 
wonders of the West. He does not appear 
to be greatly interested in anything; he 
seldom gives way to an expression of sur- 
prise, but, like a child, he is taking it in all 
the time, he is changing under the influence 
of a new vision, and there is not a coolie in 
France to-day who, when the war is over, 
will not go back to his country a better 
man for his exploits abroad, a progressive 
spirit, and the possessor of clean habits. 

That is not to say that he left China a 
barbarian. If this little work in the least 
modifies the popular conception of the 
" Chinese coohe " it will have done much. 
As children we were taught to believe that 
both Cain and coolies were murderers from 
the beginning ; no coohe was to be trusted ; 
he was a yellow dog ; he would stick a knife 


into you in a dark alley on a dark night. He 
was treacherous. To-day we have outgrown 
this puerihty, but still retain a deep distrust 
of the coolie and his ways. Nothing could 
be more unfair. The coolie whom we trained 
and brought to France is a simple, jolly 
fellow. He is content with the very sim- 
plicities of Hf e ; he steals, but not overmuch ; 
he is to be trusted. He is extraordinarily 
happy ; he grins and grins ; he is good to 
his fellow-creature. In the following pages 
I have often compared him to a child because 
of his simplicity, his playfulness, his frank 
delight with life, his quaintness and his affec- 
tionate character, 

B.E.F., France, 

July, 19 1 8. 


Three Men of China .... Prontupiece 

To face page 

"Queue after queue fell without a murmur 

FROM THE victims" .... 

"They gathered in knots and guessed at the 

LIFE to come" .... 

Embarkation day at Tsingtau 

A port of call on the interminable journey 

" Intoxicated by the morning they swung along 
THE Canadian road" 

Pitching camp in Canada 

The pride of clean tent lines 

"Leisure drives the coolie artist mind to 
action" ..... 

"Onward to Panama" .... 

"Followed a couple of days and nights at 
Colon" ..... 

Theatricals in Canada 











One day in late December I arrived at Tsing- 
tau just after noon. Three hours we took 
to get alongside, the steamer crunching her 
way through floes of ice. The thermometer 
down to zero. A coastline jagged and 
brilliant as a bit of crystal. A perishingly 
cold drive to the Grand Hotel, where I fell 
in with our commandant, Vessy, a little 
man of decisive speech, who, having intro- 
duced me to his family, asked me if I would 
like to go out to the Coolie Camp at Tsang- 
kou (about ten miles from Tsingtau) that 
afternoon, or spend a day in town and start 
work on Monday. Wishing to get into harness 
as soon as might be, I said I would go out 
with him. He gave me a lift in one of the 
camp cars, which after speeding through 


hilly country for about twenty minutes, 
brought us in sight of a tall yellow chimney. 

"Down that chimney," said Vessy, "is the 

" A peculiar place for a camp," I reflected, 
" but if it means our quarters are in a furnace 
and the furnace is aUght it will be very wel- 
come." For I was thinking of the intense 
cold and of the wind that never relaxed its 

A few minutes later I understood what he 
meant. The silk-filature factory which is 
now transformed into the Coolie Labour 
Corps' Training Station is built in a little 
valley, not much of a valley to be sure, and 
affording scant protection from the insistent 
merciless breeze. However, down it was in 
a sense. A Chinese sentry saluted, smartly 
enough, as we passed into an enclosure of 
considerable size. 

On one side a row of low white stone 
houses, partly given over to the coolies' 
quarters, partly to the Sausage Machine of 
which I shall have more to say later on. A 
guard-room at one end of this row of houses 
and at the other G.H.Q. Immediately before 
one a gravelled space now known as the 


Parade Ground, enclosed with barbed wire. 
" For all the world like a prison camp," I 
thought. And within were the " prisoners," 
marching in columns, at least five hundred 
of them, uniformly clothed in tanned leather- 
coloured coats, with dark brown caps on 
their heads. At second glance I thought of 
them as so many convicts. Some walked 
with a convict's slouch, others carried them- 
selves like men on H.M. service ; all kept 
tolerably together, changing direction now 
and again, and going through the elementary 
movements associated with company drill 
without arms. 

And in a little while the wind carried to 
me the sounds of certain words of command, 
given with great precision, and I made out a 
European standing in their midst, waving his 
arms about and brandishing a cane. 

" One of my colleagues," I ventured to 

"A Russian officer," he answered, "who 
has given up his title in the Russian Army 
to go home with the coolies. Because he 
can't rejoin his regiment on the eastern front 
he has elected to go to the western front in 
charge of a company of Chinese." 


I admired the way his company drilled. 

Here it may be said that the present 
strength of a Company is 490 — 490 coolies of 
varying physique who, having been medically 
examined and washed and clothed, are 
handed over to "one of us" in the raw to be 
hammered and coaxed and cursed into a 
disciphned body of men. That is all I know 
about it so far. And I have seen little more 
than this in the making. I don't doubt I 
shall see a great deal more and have much 
to say. But all in good time. 

To complete the description of the en- 
closure : to the left, as one comes in the 
gates, is a barn-like house, about 100 yards 
from the parade ground, formerly the resi- 
dence of the silk-filature factory manager, 
and now the Officers' Mess. Our mess. Its 
outstanding virtue is that it has a warm 
room, one cosy warm room, where we all sit 
in off-duty hours and discuss the merits and 
demerits of the Chinese coolie — not to men- 
tion the War and the days to come when we 
shall be tossing across the Northern Pacific 
or landing our companies somewhere in 

There are joys in store. 


" In the shape," says our pessimist, Med- 
cork, "of waves forty feet high, sea-sickness 
upon our Oriental multitude, and a transfer 
as a Tommy into some line regiment as soon 
as you set foot in the war zone." 

We are fourteen, I think, in the mess. Of 
all parts and professions ; successful young 
merchants who have thrown up good jobs to 
go home with the coolies, missionaries, 
planters, authors and nondescripts, not for- 
getting our Russian officer. To-night, my 
first night in camp, I have an impression that 
I have fallen among comrades, men of the 
right spirit, British in their passion for 
grousing. Far Eastern in their passionate 
endeavour to procure little luxuries of life, 
SpEirtan in their heroic attempt to stand the 
astonishing cold. Our optimist, Harris, a 
journalist, warbles of the warmer days in 
France, halcyon days, when we shall be 
living in tents with every comfort in the 
vicinity, under a balmy French sky. 

"Full of Hun aeroplanes and stray shrap- 
nel," adds Medcork. 

However that may be, we worked up a 
great " fug " in the cosy room to-night. 
After dinner, which was managed and dis- 


patched in real barracks' style, we gathered 
round a noble old stove and toasted our- 
selves and talked and smoked till the room 
was wrapt in a cloud. 

While some played poker, with matches 
for counters, others looking on, I debated the 
Russian question with the Russian officer, 
and was beginning to feel that the new life 
was very tolerable indeed, the hours easy, 
the work healthy, my colleagues most genial 
souls, when in came Vessy, the commandant, 
upon which a silence fell, and I learnt to my 
surprise that we were leading a military life 
in a military camp, which camp had to be 
guarded night and day. Sentries must be 
posted at intervals both inside and outside 
the <:amp in order to prevent the escape of 
homesick, lovelorn or otherwise fed-up cooHes, 
and an official inspection of these sentries 
was necessary. In other words, a four-hour 
watch, being the privilege of aU officers, and 
in particular the privilege of the newly 
arrived officer. "My first job," I reflected; 
and to be sure I was forthwith allowed to sit 
in the guard-room, and go the rounds of the 
camp from midnight of my first night to four 
o'clock of my first day. 


I SURVIVED the watch, getting back to bed 
at 4.30, and down to breakfast at 8. I feel as 
though I have begun to do my bit. I do not 
mean this cynically. The hours are easy : 
8.30 to 12, and 2 to 4, but there is a lot to do 
while one is at it. Spent the morning over- 
seeing certain functions of the Sausage 
Machine : 

1. The hair-cutting function. 

2. The cleansing function. 

These are midway functions of a process 
which turns an ordinary uninviting workaday 
coolie into a clean, well-clothed and smartly 
active human being. An astonishing process 
which is doing a great good for a corner of 
China. If the whole nation, male and female, 
could pass through the Sausage Machine it 
would make the people anew, as it is making 
them, two to three hundred a day, in this 

The coolies are recruited chiefly from the 


province of Shantung. They are tempted to 
depart from the way of their lives as farmers 
and labourers of one kind and another by 
offers of splendid pay, sight of a new world, 
and other equally uncommon recruiting 
phrases. And they come to camp quite 
ignorant, I am told, of the pleasures imme- 
diately in store for them. A medical examina- 
tion, a hair-cut, a hot bath, a suit of clothes 
and sundry other garments, not to speak of 
vaccination and a brass bracelet which bears 
an identification number, are not accorded 
freely and for the asking, if not upon invita- 
tion, in many places in the world. The 
coolies are lucky — lucky from the moment 
they enter the Sausage Machine to the 
moment they embark at Tsingtau, careless 
of their destination ; only hoping that they 
will go on living the same life on board ship 
as they led in barracks, where they lacked 
neither clothes nor food. 

Of the two functions above mentioned, I 
was most interested in the barber's. Being 
northerners, these coolies wear a queue which, 
rather strangely I thought, they did not in 
the least object to losing. Queue after queue 
fell without a murmur from the victims. A 


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"TirRV GATIfKliED rN J-.'NMI'^ AM> GUESSEI? AT I Fll-: I f P~ I'; TO CDMI-: 


few appeared regretful to lose so intimate a 
thing, picking it up after it had been sheared, 
handling it fondly and examining the careful 
plaits. Naked they sat during this process, 
which being ended, they would get up and 
scratch their bald pates and then make for 
the great vat of hot water in the next room. 
On the edge of the vat stood a Chinese 
official who relentlessly pushed his victims 
into the water, first daubing their heads with 
liquid soap. The vat itself was a welter of 
human bodies, getting clean each after his 
manner. Then a brisk rub with a towel after 
which the skin would show a glistening 
polish, like the surface of a stone washed by 
the sea for many years. It was a study for 
Michael Angelo. 

Later in the day these same bathers join 
the ranks. At present there are four com- 
panies, A to D, in formation. D is incom- 
plete. The others have their full comple- 
ment of 480 men. This afternoon I assisted 
in the drilling of C Company, which will be 
commanded by our Russian officer. The 
company is not very far advanced. It has 
but a hazy idea of the movement — form 
fours. But it is wonderful how quickly these 


men get hold of the thing. After two hours 
of shouting I succeeded in making the whole 
company do the movement without a mistake 
and with a certain smartness. 

The simple movements are of course done 
by numbers. Every coolie counts aloud — i, 
errh, san (one, two, three), for instance, when 
forming fours or two deep — the majority is 
given to shouting — so that when the move- 
ment is performed by 500 the din is terrific. 
Against the thunder of this counting one's 
voice of command sounds piping. 

I see one has to be stern with the coolies ; 
but to lose patience is as unwise as to indulge 
in laughter. Impatience and laughter must 
possess a man who is suddenly put in com- 
mand of 500 men. The mere idea is laugh- 
able, though, I dare say, one gets used to it 
soon enough. And the unwieldy mass of 
them makes for impatience when explaining 
a movement in lame Chinese or demon- 
strating it in action. But for all their 
childishness and forgetfulness they are quick 
to learn and of a wiUing temperament. So 
often they do not understand, not because 
they cannot, but because the instructions are 
not conveyed clearly to them. They delight 


in their new billets. It must be play to them, 
and a " soft " thing, after the crudeness of life 
in the village and field and on the maiden 
path, with a freighted wheelbarrow squeak- 
ing before them. That is why they are apt 
to laugh more than it is good to laugh in the 
ranks. They have already caught, or I 
would say were naturally endowed with, the 
traditional spirit of the British Army — 
cheeriness ; but they are perhaps too satu- 
rated with that spirit just at the moment, 
being particularly inclined to make a roaring 
joke out of a brother's mistake. 

If the company commander holds a coolie 
up to ridicule, the victim becomes a laughing- 
stock in the eyes of his fellows. This is of 
course most upsetting to the C.C. Only by 
darting fire from his eyes and brandishing a 
stick and roaring "shun ! " can he restore the 
company to a normal state of seriousness. 
It is very necessary to keep serious. A 
sense of humour should be discouraged in a 
C.C. of the C.L.C. He should be coaxed to 
view his task in the light that any C.C. at 
home looks upon the training of a unit for 
the New Armies. Discipline must be top 


And yet we are cautioned that it is not 
desirable to put too military a construction 
upon our duties. In other words, do not 
spread the notion amongst your men that 
they are going into the front-line trenches. 
Do not lead them to suppose that they are 
China's first hundred thousand. And do not 
think of yourself as a C.C, but as a super- 
visor of labour, a ganger par excellence, a 
glorified stevedore. 

Fire-arms are unknown in the camp. They 
would be very useful in emphasizing one's 
commands. And then again they would be a 
splendid substitute for one's vocal chords, 
which are worked at high pressure from the 
moment of appearing on the parade ground 
to the moment of leaving. There is always 
something to shout at. 


The recruit has an annoying habit of leaving 
his place in the ranks, not from funk or out 
of spite, but in order to say a few words to 
his brother further down the Une. And his 
brother welcomes the defaulter as a rule, 
sometimes leaving his position to meet the 
latter half-way. Often, when one's eye is 
turned, social knots are formed in the ranks, 
cigarettes appear and get lighted with extra- 
ordinary rapidity, discussions are indulged in 
and other liberties of the barrack-room. A 
thundering "Li shung" (attention) restores 
order, but it is usually some time before the 
drill can proceed, for in the panic men lose 
their places, and forget their numbers, not 
attempting to sort themselves out, with the 
result that when an order like form-fours is 
given chaos is the outcome. It would break 
the heart of the most hardened training 
officer at home ; it would drive him to the 
mad-house. Such insubordination from the 
word, " go " ; such a light conception of duties ; 



so prevalent a comic spirit. We, who are 
indeed training ofi&cers, are differently con- 
stituted. Not that we are softer than our 
kind at home, but that we understand the 
thing we are shaping. It cannot be shaped 
like anything Western; it cannot in fact be 
shaped at all. It has to be hammered ; not 
crudely as one would hammer molten iron 
into a horse-shoe, but as one hammers a 
metal sheet into a kerosene tin. 

And the result is invariably good. A 
fortnight's hammering and the men smarten 
their movements astonishingly ; they step 
with precision ; they even keep step without 
the aid of fife and drum. 

The training is done collectively. Unlike 
our own recruit, the coolie is seldom singled 
out for individual shaming. 

The ideal C.L.C. training officer is en- 
dowed with profound tact. If he does not 
understand Chinese (and perhaps the ideal 
officer does not) he must be endowed with a 
sense deeper than tact — ability to fathom 
what is in the mind of his men. It is best to 
speak of them collectively, for a company 
thinks along one line ; if anything goes right 
or wrong it does so en masse ; that is why the 


results of our work are so encouraging ; the 
smartness, the advent of shape, comes all at 
once ; seldom are there stragglers in the way 
of efficiency. Although — to end a long 
parenthesis — we don't, to be sure, go very far 
along the way of efficiency. 

The ideal officer is also slow to anger, 
though not necessarily of a meek countenance. 
Temper, which finds voice in cursing, is ab- 
surdly unavailing. A little anger is a good 
thing ; much of it provokes enjoyment in 
the ranks. To swear is no good unless it 
relieves the feelings. The most hideous 
blasphemy passes bUssfuUy over the heads of 
the cooUes. The ideal officer does not laugh 
or even smUe, for any such indulgence is 
immediately imitated in the ranks. A com- 
pany of coolies would make the finest audience 
in the world. It would pay an enterprising 
theatrical manager over and over again to 
" paper the house " liberally on an opening 
night with Chinese coolies. 


One night in early January a coolie tried to 
escape. Not that the coolies are forcibly 
detained — if a man vouchsafes a valid reason 
for deserting the service he can go — but, you 
see, they are under contract. They under- 
take to do this and that before embarking 
for France ; they undertake not to go out- 
side the camp at night, without getting 

The coolie in question was caught in the 
act of dropping from the roof of one of the 
barracks whose back is to the road which 
leads to Tsingtau in one direction, and to a 
dead end in the other. The sentries outside 
the camp were awake. Questioned why, at a 
court of inquiry held this morning, he was 
desirous of so impolitely leaving his com- 
rades, a dry warm wooden bed, no end of 
rice, and the interesting prospect of seeing 
France at war, he said, that he wanted to 
give up all for his wife and follow her, 
averring that, although he greatly respected 



his O.C, and was sorry to desert him (I can 
hear the O.C. crying—"! don't fink"), he 
revered his wife, and reverence for her 
strengthened him in his endeavour to escape 
from a house of mild bondage. He did not 
dream he would drop into the arms of a 
sentry ; which was about the truest remark 
the O.C. conducting the court of inquiry 
had ever heard. 

Embarkation Day is said to be a great day 
in Tsingtau ; like Graduation Day in an 
American University, the graduates going 
out on the Sea of Life — the Yellow Sea, to 
be quite accurate. It was told to-night in 
mess that the coolies do not know and do not 
question where they are going. Having been 
assured that they are not going into action 
on the western front, they set out light- 
heartedly, as men on some fine adventure, 
not caring about their destination so long as 
they are decently fed and clothed. 

The first contingent, which sailed in April, 
1917, was much exercised over this point, 
in so much that a mutiny took place on 
board the ship before she was far on her 
way, an absurd rumour upsetting them to 
the effect that they were walking into a 

The conversation in mess is none too fluent, 
possibly owing to the fact that we are all 
hoarse from shouting at our coolies. But 



one night, after dinner, in that warm cosy 
room of ours, there were many words in 
regard to the transportation of the cooUes 
via the Pacific and Canada. Redbrick, a 
ginger-haired, ginger-tongued, toughish little 
American, took the bull by the horns and 
told us much concerning something he knew 
little about. Imagination came astonishingly 
to his aid; and, to imagine is infectious, just 
as it is infectious to exaggerate, the tendency 
of one man being to outdo the other. 

However, imagination after dinner goes 
well with coffee ; and it was stimulating to 
Usten to Redbrick prophesying what sort of 
a reception the people of New York would 
give him were he to march his coolies down 
Broadway. Some one imitated the way the 
cooHes have of shouting, i, errh, i, errh (one, 
two ; one, two), as they march along, the 
effect of the sound being similar to the 
braying of a donkey ; and the idea of the 
coolies doing this on Broadway met with 
great enthusiasm in the mess. 

" Why, you can just see me, boys," cried 
Redbrick, " I'd be a little tin hero." 

A Briton, a dear out-and-out Briton, slow 
of speech and of movement, Clarison by name, 


was not to be outdone by his Yankee col- 

"I'd rather march the bhghters down 
Piccadilly," he said. 

" They'd laugh at me in Aberdeen," put in 
our only Scot. 

And the fact of coolies passing through 
England revived the much-debated question 
of whether or not Russian troops did pass 
through England from Aberdeen at the com- 
mencement of the War. 

Sympathizing with the late Press reaction 
against the rumour, there was a chorus of 
denial. Upon a couple of dissenters keeping 
the subject alive, our Russian friend was 
looked to, but he would throw no light on 
the point. 

"It is possible," he said, "for many Rus- 
sians have fought on the western front, and 
they might have come through your country." 

Our Russian says few words. He keeps to 
himself more than any other man in the 
mess. His heart is in this business. It is 
a joy to watch him with his company. 
He demonstrates the drill with professional 
swagger. His voice carries to the uttermost 
man. After observing him and his way with 


men it is apparent we straight-from-the- 
of&ce instructors have a long way to go. 
Perhaps, however, his mien and carriage are 
too military. If I were a coolie under him 
I should suspect that I was destined for one 
of the vital sectors on the western front. 


I BEGAN the New Year by drilling the p'aitous^ 
of C Company. This at 6.30 a.m. ; the duty 
of the O.C. But O.C. of C Company had a 
bad head, not as the result of celebrating 
New Year's Eve, which would be quite in 
order, but owing to doing a guard and a half, 
i.e., six hours on the previous night. 

In the phraseology of General Orders : " In 
order that they may gain confidence and 
authority, p'aitous . . . should be given fre- 
quent opportunities of drilling the men. It 
is necessary, therefore, that they should 
themselves be drilled apart until they are 

It is unfortunate that the Christian and 
Chinese New Years do not synchronize. Pos- 
sibly I should have been spared leaving a 
warm bed before dawn, getting hoarse before 
breakfast, and seeing the p'aitous in a new 
and alarming light. In the " dusk " of dawn, 

1 ^'at=section ; <0M=head. Head of section; in other 
words, lance-corporal. 


marching two-deep slowly and solemnly on 
to the parade ground, I saw them for a 
moment and quite unforgettably as a pro- 
cession of priests, their long maroon water- 
proofs looking like pontifical robes and their 
number sticks, which they hold in the hand 
or stick in the front of the coat, for all the 
world like crucifixes. 

The tall chimney of the silk-filature factory, 
rising into gloom out of a whitish block of 
buildings, could have been mistaken for the 
spire of a church. It was a windless silent 
dawn. Appallingly ecclesiastical. I stood 
enrapt ; and was only awakened to the fact 
that I was in command of a squad of p'aitous 
by the squad coming hard up against a stone 
wall — the wall of the factory. 

The p'aitous are picked men and are put 
in charge of fourteen coolies. They are 
chosen by the company commander after 
much head-scratching. It is not easy to 
determine which is the most inteUigent of 
fifteen coolies. Their brains are apparently 
created to pattern. As a rule, he who moves 
faster than his fellow, he who watches his 
C.C, he who has a sense of direction, becomes 
a f'aitou. But p'aitous, being men, are 


subject to strange lapses. They are apt to 
forget, as they did this morning, that they 
have a left arm and a right. When the 
command left turn is given, and the entire 
squad turns to the right, it gives the C.C. 
furiously to think. 

If there were some consistency about re- 
versing an order, the drill could perfectly 
well be done backwards ; and it would be 
quite in harmony with the notion that a 
Chinese does a thing precisely as a European 
does not. That is, on the command form- 
fours, the squad would form two-deep ; on 
the command stand at ease, the squad would 
come to attention ; and so on ad infinitum. 

Unfortunately, there is no consistency in 
this matter, and the above said notion is 
ridiculous. In the case cited, for which no 
reasonable explanation can be given, the 
only thing for the exasperated C.C. to do is 
to give the command in Chinese. "Hsiang tso 
chuan" (left turn) restores order and brings 
the light of understanding to care-worn 

To-day the number of potential company 
commanders in camp was increased by two ; 
one, a customs' man, as the phrase goes, a 


thick-set, so far silent and somewhat elderly 
little man who has lived eighteen years in 
Shanghai and doesn't look any the worse for 
it ; and the other, a Captain Linen, who was 
with the C.L.C. in France, and who now 
appears amongst us in uniform, making us 
in mufti feel quite out of place. There is 
comfort, however, in the thought that before 
the New Year is many weeks old we also 
shall be able to swank without swanking — 
which is the great gift of a uniform; that 
we also shall be able to plunge our hands 
into spacious tunic side-pockets and stand 
with legs apart in front of the fire. 

Talking about uniform, the diversity of 
our present costumes is worth noting. Stiff 
collars which were prevalent the day I 
arrived have given place to soft collars, 
multi-coloured neckerchiefs, mufflers and 
sweaters. Redbrick persists in wearing a 
stiff turnover with which he combines a 
black felt hat and a pair of spats. He could 
well walk down his Broadway without a 
change. It is mooted that his coolies make 
him out the best dressed of all the C.C.'s. 

The Russian lost his luggage somewhere 
in the Carpathians, reducing his wear to a 


cutaway, which, for fear his men should 
mistake him for a missionary or a politician, 
he covers with a mackintosh. Our missionary, 
Mr. Goodyear, of Japan, drills in a black suit 
of clerical cut ; he arms himself with a silver- 
knobbed ebony cane, lest his incurable good- 
will towards men rob him of the authority 
wherewith it is necessary to shape a batta- 
lion of coolies. Our merchant of Manila, 
being used to the heat of the tropics, swathes 
himself in two overcoats, as many muflElers 
and a tam-o'-shanter. It is said that on 
particularly cold days he is a pleasant sight 
in the eyes of the coolies, suggesting to them 
as he must the very embodiment of warmth. 


Finding nothing in general orders in regard 
to the duties of officers on guard from 4 to 8 
a.m., I mapped out a programme of my own, 
which I divided fairly between comforts and 
discomforts. Latter consisted, first, of keep- 
ing awake, and secondly, of making the 
rounds ; the former consisted, first, of keep- 
ing warm in the guard-house and, secondly, 
of making a cup of chocolate. And, as many 
treasonable orderly officers will tell you, it is 
quite astonishing how many letters you can 
write in four hours, with the aid of a stove, 
a pipe and a cup of chocolate. The guard 
could easily be a more distasteful business. 
One is not without company. A Chinese 
corporal and lance-corporal sit at attention 
in the guard-house all the night long. They 
sit in a brown study, meditating, it may be, 
the fate in France of the first hundred 
thousand of their fellow-countrymen. They 
rise and salute when you come on guard, and 
then sink back into meditation. I roused 



the corporal sufficiently to boil the water for 
my chocolate. 

The less said about going the rounds the 
better. I can't conceive that the wind that 
whistles around Mount Erebus is keener or 
more unkind than the wind that makes 
Tsangkou Camp an abomination between 
sundown and dawn. And it is a long dark- 
ness. I pity the sentries ; on my first round, 
which I made laboriously, doubly muffled 
and over-coated, I fully expected to find the 
sentries on the more exposed posts hard and 
lifeless as a pillar of salt. Sentries have 
been found asleep, but not by me. Always 
came the challenge, "Hoc Gos Air" ("Who 
Goes There"), quaintly pronounced with a 
Northerner's accent. 

Captain Linen, at dinner, alternately 
cheered and damped us with tales of how the 
coolies behave on the voyage home. 

" The first few days on the ship," he said, 
" are perfect hell. Most of the coolies have 
never seen a ship before ; some have never 
seen the sea, for they come from far inland 
and their lives seldom out-circle the village 
of their birth. Once on board, they wander 
all over the ship, some penetrating into the 


first saloon to the disgust of passengers who 
do not understand that the coolies are as 
little children innocent of the division exist- 
ing, as it exists in society, between different 
classes of passengers." 

Captain Linen is a good talker, and went 
on to say that after a while the coolies settle 
down, but the trouble begins again when the 
boat runs into weather ; violent sea-sickness 
had led to mild mutinies. He told amusing 
tales about the rail journey from Vancouver 
to Halifax, how the coolies had exchanged 
salutes with the police on the train, to the 
immense surprise of the latter, and how 
when arriving at a station they had stuck 
their heads out of the window and issued 
ambiguous orders to the soldiers patrolling 
the platform, crying out shrilly and with a 
gleam of teeth, "Bout-Turn" and "Dees- 
Miss" and "Standat-ees." 

The Captain's genial summary was: "All 
things considered their behaviour is wonder- 
fully good." It is said they astound poilus 
and Tommies in France by disembarking in 
perfect order, marching off two-deep and 
forming smartly into p'ais (sections) , platoons, 
companies and battalions. We have much 
to look forward to. 


There came a day of sundry misfortunes. 
To begin with, Redbrick was troubled with 
corns. I was eye-witness to his loss of 
temper. His company (A) were very patient 
with him, thoroughly enjojang his flow of 
well-spiced Yankee language. I thought and 
hoped they would get through the day with- 
out one of their p'aitous being reduced to the 
ranks, or one of the ranks being sent to jail 
(we have a jail, by the way ; not patronized 
largely), but, being a soft-hearted chap, I 
hoped for too much. 

The company were standing at ease in 
front of their Bunk-house. Redbrick was 
soothing his nerves with a cigarette. A 
coolie (reckless man!) becoming irresistibly 
possessed with a desire to smoke, steps out 
of the ranks and with enviable sang-froid 
sidles up to his commander and takes the 
fag out of the latter's mouth, claiming it for 
his own. Amazement — a terrible silence — 
an explosion, followed by swift confused 



movements. To-morrow the culprit will 
complain of corns elsewhere than on the 
little toe. This is the worst of having a 
super-sense of humour. In Tsangkou the 
deed is funny, and is related with relish at 
mess ; in Europe it would have meant P.D., 
F.P., or both. 

Our children (a paternal attitude towards 
the coolies is recommended) are passionately 
fond of playing the fool. They are a race of 
Peter Pans, never having grown up. Nightly 
I thank God they are not going to be soldiers. 
Never a man would reach the trenches alive. 
I see their fate at the hands of a colonel 
ignorant of their psychology. They would 
be shot at dawn by battalions. 

Yet, if Wells is right in saying that laughter 
will end this war, the C.L.C. may do it. 

It must not be imagined, however, that 
there is weakness in our paternal treatment 
of the coolies. There is rivalry among the 
officers in regard to the number of canes 
broken on the backs, legs and shins, not to 
speak of the heads of defaulters. The supply 
of canes ran short in Tsingtau some time 
ago. Redbrick has the greatest number to 
his credit, or should I say discredit ? Not- 


withstanding, it must be said in justice to him 
that his company is the most efficient in camp. 

The second misfortune is no more serious 
than the first, but perhaps it is worth telling. 
I assisted to-day in the " hammering " of C 
Company, which is commanded by our 
Russian. That over-six-foot deep-chested 
blue-eyed proudish O.C. quite failed in spirit 
during the afternoon. The cavalry ring 
went out of his voice ; the flash faded from 
his directing arm ; the temperature of his 
company went down in sympathy. He hung 
his " needless head 'mong men," and dis- 
missed the parade about half an hour before 
regulation time. Walking wearily back to 
mess I questioned him about his despondency, 
but not openly, thinking that he might be in 
love and that the thought of his girl was 
making him sad. But it was not that. It 
was simply that he was fed up. 

" I am not proud," he said in his Scan- 
dinavian-flavoured English, " but I do like 
people to talk to ; I like to exchange ideas. 
It is dull for me after being in Washington 
and London. In those cities I was attached 
to our Embassy. I moved among so many 
interesting people." 


Then after a pause in which I turned over 
a phrase of sympathy : 

" These cooHes are so stupid. It is my 
fault too. I cannot speak to them. My 
EngUsh is so poor. The interpreter under- 
stands me with difficulty. I wish the boat 
would come. I want to get away." 

"It is due on the sixth," I said, " you will 
have a livelier time on board." 

" Perhaps," he replied, and relapsed into 

Poor chap ! He was a Major of cavalry 
in the Russian Army, in a crack regiment. 
A CO. in the C.L.C. is scarcely so dis- 

The third misfortune was due to the 
objectionable practice of inoculation. Two 
of my colleagues lie in bed to-day, having 
been grievously wounded in the chest last 
night by a syringe needle. One was Harris, 
the journaUst, my room-mate. He had a 
touch of fever this morning, and talked in 
his sleep, imagining, I gathered from a frag- 
mentary monologue, that he was a corre- 
spondent at the front in full view of the 
enemy, which were battaUons of coohes who, 
against orders, had learnt the use of fire- 


arms. The other, Clarison, is feeling very 
sorry for himself. 

Medcork is certain the weather will get 
colder. Captain Linen says the coldest snap 
in France will be warm after a winter in this 
part of North China. Our Russian scorns 
the weather, telling us that if we want to 
feel what real cold is like we should go with 
him to the Carpathians. We politely refuse 
his invitation, being quite content with the 
knowledge of cold obtainable in Tsangkou. 


All the coolies were inoculated, some for 
the first time, and some for the second, so 
that to the equal joy of coolies and officers, 
sons and fathers, I should say, a holiday was 
declared in the afternoon. Fathers should 
not see too much of their sons ; not that 
familiarity has a great chance of breeding 
contempt when a father is the possessor of 
five hundred children, but that it does both 
good to be apart now and again, for separation 
between affectionate souls makes them doubly 
affectionate when they are reunited. 

There will be a touching meeting on the 
parade ground to-morrow morning. There 
are no bounds to love once it is alight. Pos- 
sibly officers will turn out half an hour earlier 
in order to visit their men as they lie in bed, 
or, to be more accurate, on the wooden 
shelves provided for them in the so-called 
Bunk-houses. About 250 coolies live in a 
house ; which suggests congestion. A more 
tolerant description would run — economical 



packing ; coolies being packed at night 
shoulder to shoulder on three tiers of shelves 
running the length of the Bunk-house. I do 
not doubt that a medical commission would 
condemn the method as being perilously in- 
sanitary. For Europeans it would be ; for 
Chinese it is passably snug — and snugness is 
all that is looked to. 

General Orders say: "Company Officers 
should, during their spare time, visit their 
men's quarters and endeavour to let the men 
see that they take an interest in their wel- 

On the surface of it this looks simple, but let 
us examine it. In the first place officers do 
not have spare time ; they have to make it. 
Postulate the time as made, the next step in 
the execution of the order requires moral 
courage and a dead or deadened sense of 
smell. Both uncommon qualities in man. 
Two hundred and fifty coolies hibernating in 
the same room create quite an atmosphere 
of their own. It takes moral courage to go 
out of the fresh Manchurian breezes into that 
which is best left undescribed. 

Once within, an officer proceeds to carry 
out orders by holding his nose, and he cannot 


do this and effectually inquire into the welfare 
of his men at the same time. Through the 
medium of his interpreter (always bearing in 
mind that he is a father come to visit and to 
comfort his children), he interrogates this 
son and that, asking them with exemplary 
forethought if they are perfectly satisfied 
with their quarters ; if they are warm at 
night and so forth ; wondering the while in 
his heart how he will ever get the air he is 
breathing out of his lungs, and how it is 
possible for so divine a creation as man to be 
content to sleep on a wooden shelf — like a 
book in a public library. 

Does a son lodge a complaint, the officer 
eloquently extols the condition of the men's 
quarters, comparing them to the dirt and 
darkness of the mud huts and stone hovels 
in which they used to live. Petty plaints are 
set aside with the vast and vain generalization 
that if better times are not to come, certainly 
not worse are to be expected. Subtle allu- 
sions are made to the genial climate of 
France ; reminders are made of the splendid 
pay. These unavailing, letters are shown 
from yellow brothers in the war zone, testify- 
ing to the plenitude of rice and rabbits and 


leeks and black eggs and other luxuries 
behind the lines. 

An officer, in fulfilling the above-quoted 
order, takes a hint from Napoleon that an 
army marches on its stomach. Pinching his 
nostrils, he guides the complainant to the 
kitchen — an attachment to each Bunk-house 
— and whets the appetite of the ingrate with 
fumes of boiling rice, informing him that at 
certain hours of the day he can eat as much 
as his belly will hold. If this is insufficient 
inducement to remain a unit of the C.L.C., 
interest in the man's welfare ceases, and he 
is clapped into jail or sent home. 


One day the spirit of officers was markedly 
lowered by receipt of news from Hong-Kong 
that the next ship was not due until the 
middle of the month. 

It was suggested that fathers negotiate 
with their sons to leave them to their own 
devices for a week, and pack off to some 
lively spot to pass the interim in feast and 
song. Mr. Goodyear, who is the sphinx of 
the mess, suddenly broke into speech anent 
this, submitting that the act would be 
grossly unfilial. 

" It would be a breach of good faith which 
our sons would always hold against us," he 

And after much debating we came to see 
the error of our suggestion. 

" Hang our sons," shouted Clarison, " it's 
time we had some daughters." 

At which a shameful silence fell at the table ; 
but in our hearts we were with Clarison, 
knowing him to be fond of women, and never 



a woman had been seen in camp. Harris 
declared he would write to the Times re- 
garding the tardiness of the ship's arrival at 
Tsingtau. The Russian fell into a slough of 
despond, straining his ankle, so that for the 
nonce he is incapacitated and I am acting 
O.C. Captain Linen, who confided to me 
last night that he was fed up with " hanging 
about China," took the matter to heart, his 
temperature rising to loi this afternoon. 
He is abed and lies there possibly in order 
to avoid the all-day duties of an orderly 
officer, which had fallen upon him for fulfil- 
ment to-morrow. 

Medcork, after his manner, was willing to 
bet anyone a month's pay that the ship 
would strike a typhoon between Hong-Kong 
and Tsingtau and not make port at aU. 

We are a jolly crowd to-night. Some are 
consoling themselves with poker, others have 
gone to Tsingtau to ascertain what is the 
day of the week, and still others, like myself, 
believe in bed as a cure for all ephemeral 
troubles. Certainly our sons do, having been 
"shelved" since sundown. 


On Sunday, confessions were usually indulged 
in. Harris, who has an excellent digestion 
and the temperament of a lamb, admitted 
that he was growing astonishingly callous in 
his treatment of the coolies. Harris has 
charge of the Reserve company which, ab- 
sorbing as it does all the new recruits, grows 
to portentous size, preceding the departure 
of a battalion. When a shipload of coolies is 
gone, the Reserve company is split up into 
companies of 500 (roughly). In its present 
inflated state it is exceedingly difficult to 
manage, requiring from the CO. a nice fusion 
of discipline and tenderness. He who was 
inclined to coddle and gently persuade his 
coolies into order is to-day a cast-iron dis- 
ciplinarian. So he confessed to-day. 

" The smallest breach of discipline drives 
me into a fury," he said. " I don't know what 
has come over me. Time was when I was 
sweetly persuasive. I could initiate a coolie 
into the knowledge of left and right without 



loss of temper. To-day I cane him into this 
knowledge ; and if a man leaves the ranks 
without permission or echoes and imitates 
my word of command or lights a cigarette 
on parade, or does anything which is against 
my will, I see red." 

In Harris' heart is a great fear of becoming 
like a Prussian officer. " What if I should 
become like that which we are seeking to 
destroy ? " This is indeed a calamity for the 
Reserves, for Harris is a great exponent of 
jiu-jitsu, having won the black belt, a decora- 
tion of no mean order given in Japan. Com- 
plete loss of temper (which must come as a 
matter of course to the cast-iron disciplinarian) 
will mean resort to the quickest method of 
flooring the offenders. Harris in combat 
with two thousand coolies wiU be a great 
diversion from the somewhat monotonous 
life of camp. A sight for ancient Rome. 

Before tiffin we would sometimes have a 
game of baseball, which was always enthusi- 
astically followed by thousands of coolies. 
It is rumoured that the skill of the fathers 
in pitching, catching, fanning, cussing, steal- 
ing and sliding bases, making runs and 
home-runs, has done more to raise them in 


the estimation of their sons than all they 
have taught them on the parade ground and 
all the interest they have taken in their 

Several coolies were taken aback at seeing 
Mr. Goodyear, the missionary, a participant 
in the game. They put their heads together 
murmuring that it was not possible for a 
truly God-fearing man to play ball on the 
Sabbath, but on seeing Mr. Goodyear make a 
one-handed catch in outfield, they fell to 
marvelling, and repented of their impulse to 
cast him out as commanding officer. Par- 
ticularly were the spectators delighted when 
Redbrick knocked up a "fly" which fell 
among the police guard (which was being 
changed at midday), causing the same to 
scatter as if a shell had fallen in their midst. 

The coolies, who for a reason unknown to 
me, have a hearty and open contempt for 
the native officials in camp, jeered and threw 
up their hands in laughter. 

And this dislike of native officialdom 
reminds me that Medcork told a story at 
tiffin. One of his sergeants had come to him 
averring that he had been empowered by a 
majority of the company's N.C.O.'s to say 


that no orders would in future be recognized 
and obeyed which did not come direct from 
the Ups of their father. They objected to 
the interpreter who was a scurvy-looking 
half-breed. Medcork was much exercised 
over this, for his knowledge of Chinese is nil. 
All " messages " to all ranks are communi- 
cated through the medium of the interpreter. 

" Block the channel," he cried, " and you 
block the way to improvement and effi- 

Medcork is a keen man. He spent most 
of the afternoon trying to explain to the 
emissary of the N.C.O.'s that he and his 
interpreter were one ; that the interpreter 
was his mouthpiece — nothing in himself and 
having no power of his own. 

Medcork, who is something of a theologist, 
found a perfect parallel, but not being certain 
of his sergeant's persuasion did not dare to 
make use of his parallel. Medcork was getting 
the best of the wrangle when the sergeant 
suddenly crushed him with the retort that as 
his CO. did not know Chinese he could not 
check the words of his interpreter, who might 
say anjrthing he chose. 

Wherefore Medcork now feverishly studies 


Whitewright's "Introduction to Mandarin." 
The future for him is dark. It is as if he 
were struck dumb. Being a pessimist he 
anticipates a discharge from the C.L.C. 

" I'll join the R.A.F.," he says, " a swift 
easy death." 


There lies in the guard-room a so-called 
Report Book in which the orderly officer 
notes what he has done during the hours of 
his watch, any extraordinary occurrences in 
camp, the state of the weather, and other 
items of interest to the commandant. Al- 
though the scope of this volume is strictly 
limited by order, and although brevity in 
the entries is heartily recommended by the 
commandant, it is lately noticeable that 
certain officers are given to spreading them- 
selves, as the phrase goes, unduly, recording 
with prolix minuteness what matters have 
improved each shuddering hour, whilst in- 
dulging a spirit of criticism which is scarcely 
consonant with their subordinate position. 
The duties of an orderly officer are dis- 
charged with such secrecy that he cannot be 
blamed for seizing an opportunity to lay 
written proof of his devotion to them. 

But he can overstep the mark. And it is 
agreed among us that Harvie, a missionary 



and mountaineer of Japan, overstepped the 
mark when he discoursed with fatal facility 
in the Report Book upon the accumulation 
of dirt in the coolie kitchens, pointing out 
that such an insanitary state of affairs was 
intolerable to refined coolies. 

The adjective " refined " has given rise 
to much discussion. Some argue : once a 
coolie always a coolie. Others aver that a 
coolie who has passed through the Sausage 
Machine is refined. 

" Refined physically," added Clarison, 
" with physical habits unchanged." 

And Clarison gave an illustration of the 
manner in which army-coated and clean 
recruits crowd together in their Bunk-houses, 
and in foul air and dinginess lie on their 
stomachs or sit cross-legged and listen to a 
musical member of their company shrilly 
" melodize " on a native violin ; this on the 
bottom shelf, whilst on the upper shelves 
their brothers consume bowls of rice or sip 
tea or smoke cigarettes and pipes, both food 
and liquid and ashes falling indiscriminately 
and unnoticed on the rapt audience below. 

"Amazing chaps," cried Clarison. 

And a picture came into my mind of the 


queue of coolies daily visible at the entrance 
to the Sausage Machine ; a straggling unkempt 
beaten-doggish lot of men, faded and ragged 
blue smocks clinging limply to their bodies, 
their hands tucked in their sleeves, their 
shoulders hunched in the cold morning air ; 
a few apparently aware that they are stand- 
ing on the threshold of a new life, manifest- 
ing a lively interest in the door behind which 
a handful of their fellows disappear from 
time to time ; most of them with a happy 
stoical expression on their faces, as though 
life wherever lived were an indifferent and 
unalterable thing. 

The Report Book having become a Sug- 
gestion Book, it now remains for some 
courageous member of the mess to submit 
that four-hour watches in Northern Chinese 
winters menace the health of officers and 
should be forthwith abolished. It is strange 
how courage among us is lacking. 


There came a day of disaster. B Company 
mutinied. The mutiny broke out at 4 p.m., 
dismissal time ; it was countered by the O.C. 
and Commandant, who acted bravely ; and 
was quelled in half an hour. 

It happened in this way : yesterday at 
the morning dismissal several coolies belong- 
ing to the company in question dropped out 
of the ranks and slipped into their Bunk- 
houses before the equivalent of "break-off" 
— a wave of a cane — had been given by the 
O.C. They were peevishly cold — there was a 
bitter wind blowing — and as hungry as lion 
cubs. They were in the rear ranks ; there 
are fifteen ranks in a C.L.C. Company, so 
they thought they could get away unseen. 
Not so ; the O.C. had quick eyes, sharpened 
in the American Rockies. He caught them. 
It was not the first time he had caught them. 
He took drastic measures to prevent the 
thing. He fined the whole company, ex- 
cluding N.C.O.'s, a day's pay, which is five 

E 49 


coppers a coolie and ten coppers a p'aitou. 
He would not " cut them " to-day ; he would 
do so to-morrow. His intention was ex- 
plained to them by an interpreter. At which 
there was much murmuring. 

That night the Orderly Officer notes in 
the Report Book : " 11.30 p.m. Visited rounds 
and coolie quarters ; lights burning in Bunk- 
house No. 2, and the sound of voices. Thought 
disturbance excessive. Entered house and 
found many coolies apparently in conference. 
Otherwise nothing amiss." So the mutiny 
was hatched. To-morrow dawned, 10° colder 
than the day before, with a wind lifting dust 
from the surrounding barren flats and lashing 
it in the face. Nothing went wrong in the 
morning. In the afternoon B Company were 
down on orders for a route march of four 
miles, outside camp, dusty, discomfiting. 

About 2 p.m. B Company got away, 
marching in fours. As they go out the camp 
gate, a p'aitou, unobserved by the sentry, 
leaves the ranks and whispers a moment with 
a Chinese who stands just outside, seemingly 
interested in the passing column. Two hours 
elapse. The column is now entering camp. 
The interested spectator stands in the same 


position. As the p'aitou passes he " slips 
him " four bottles, which at the inquiry after 
the mutiny were found to contain whisky. 
The O.C. dismisses his men. They crowd 
round him as the conspirators crowded round 
Caesar. They murmur words about pay. He 
smiles and shakes his head. They dissent 
and persist, but he disperses the mob with 
his cane. The mutineers go off in a huff to 
their Bunk-house and inflame themselves 
with alcohol. They scheme to fall upon 
their O.C. when he comes, a couple of hours 
later, looking after their welfare. Goodness 
knows what they intended to do with him ; 
tear him limb from limb, or do unto him as 
he had done unto them with cane and boot 
and palm of hand. 

Unfortunately for them, he is accompanied 
on his merciful errand by the Commandant, 
who was created by the Lord to lick coolies 
into lambs — without destroying their self- 
pride ; a master of their language and their 
ways ; just the wrong man to run up against 
at the inception of mutiny. Much shouting 
and confusion upon the entry of the O.C, 
towards whom an unusual and menacing 
movement of red-cheeked and foul-breathed 


coolies. In an instant the Commandant is on 
top of the position, as well as on top of 
several of the more aggressive of the 
mutineers. Fists flash ; arms circle and 
clinch ; and unclinch and circle again. Far 
more fall by word of mouth than by swiftness 
of arm. Cowardice and fear set in. Some 
go down on their knees and " chin-chin." It 
sweeps over them that the thing they de- 
signed for their O.C. may be turned against 
them. The mutiny is over. 

The Orderly Officer notes in the Report 
Book that evening: "6.30 p.m. Snow on 
the ground. B Company did extra drill 
outside Bunk-house. All well." 


At noon the thermometer stood at 55°. 
This sudden and satisfying warmth was a 
signal for a truce between officers and men, 
a better understanding between fathers and 
sons. Fraternization occurred on all parade 
grounds. Officers looked happy, their faces 
losing that set and serious expression which 
they can't help wearing in the teeth of an un- 
speakable wind ; they grinned and rubbed 
their moustaches and twirled their canes, 
proudly observing their men at play. Life 
was indeed a jolly thing at noon. The coolies 
poured into the open, emptying the Bunk- 
houses. They gathered in knots, and guessed 
at the life to come. They went arm in arm, 
and hand in hand, praising the C.L.C. Many 
engaged the services of scribes and wrote to 
their relations, saying that they had become 
soldiers and went about in waterproofs and 
wore fur-lined helmets and were held in great 
esteem by the Foreign Devil. 
The p'aitous dwelt on the authority given 


to them ; the corporals and sergeants spoke 
of the power into which they had come. 
Never a man but exhorted his male relations 
to volunteer. On the parade ground an 
official of the camp preached to the multi- 
tude, who elbowed one another the better to 
hear the words spoken which were of their 
native tongue. The drift of his speech was 
hardly followed, but it was made plain to 
them that their destiny was fortunate, in so 
far that they were going to see much of the 
world and to be given a chance to get rich 
quick, their rate of pay in France being a 
franc a day, which, at present exchange, was 
equivalent to about thirty coppers ; this in 
addition to a separation allowance for their 
families. It was difficult to understand, said 
the preacher, why some among them desired 
to return to the old life, the narrow village 
life, to the burden and squeak of the wheel- 
barrow, unless it was because of their women- 
folk, who were unreasonable and stiff-necked 
and against whom he warned them. 

Following parade in the afternoon there 
were inter-company tugs-o'-war, which 
further cemented the good feeling now exist- 
ing between officers and men, the latter 


receiving personal encouragements from the 
former in the many fierce battles that were 
fought between four o'clock and sundown. 

Even at sundown it was so mild that the 
coolies sat in groups here and there in the 
camp, smoking and gossiping. 

The now familiar chimney stood stark and 
black against the clear winter sky ; in the 
background the zigzag roofs of the disused 
machine shops ; in the foreground a bluish 
floor of concrete on which the groups of 
maroon-coated figures appeared like islands 
on a sea. If an airman from anywhere had 
suddenly come on the scene he would prob- 
ably have taken it for a prison camp ; the 
barbed-wire enclosures, the sentries, the kit- 
less unarmed inmates ; a prison camp most 
mercifully run, the habitat of happy full- 
bellied prisoners. 


The police, Chinese ex-soldiers, are equipped 
with stentorian voices. Their voices quiver 
through the coolies and make the parade 
ground tremble. 

It is most distressing to wake up in the 
morning in a bed which it has taken all night 
to get warm and to hear these voices ringing 
as it were against the dawn. It means one 
has to turn out. 

Many of us are laid up with sore throats, 
due not only to shouting, but to the dust 
storms which sweep over the camp at all 
hours of the day. Huskiness is a chronic 
state with us. Conversation in the mess, 
never fluent at the best of times, is not 
aided thereby. Nor is the temper. Dis- 
agreements are now common. To-day the 
Report Book was much abused. In a 
moment of confidence Captain Linen assured 
me he was "fed up to the teeth." And he 
proceeded to shell the camp with criticisms. 

No one concerned was left with a leg to stand 



on. The mess came in for drum-fire. He 
distinguished between the men and gentle- 
men among us ; he divided us into eggs and 
bad eggs; "a mess of lance-corporals," he 
said. But that surely is our whole charm. 
We are from all parts of the Far East and of 
all classes. We grade from a pinkish weak- 
jawed voluble Irishman who chatters about 
"gurgling his throat after shiftin' round with 
them dirty coolies " to Captain Linen himself, 
who parades in spurs, smokes Egyptian fags, 
speaks nothing but persuasive Mandarin to 
the natives and nothing but King's English 
in the mess. A seasoning of blasphemy is 
but a sign of good breeding. Also, Captain 
Linen has been in the army umpteen years. 
On all matters military he is looked to as 
one having indisputable knowledge. Of an 
evening he will sit on the edge of a desk in 
the cosy room and reply, cigarette in hand, 
to a bombardment of questions. Some of us 
are exercised as to our proper behaviour in 
Blighty; which officers we should salute in 
the street, and which disregard; whether, 
being in a sense non-combatants, we are to 
equip ourselves with revolvers ; if we should 
buy our tunics, slacks, etc., in Ordnance, or 


have them made at our private tailors' ; with 
what degree of hauteur we should ireat 
N.C.O.'s and privates ; and other points of 
military etiquette. Three months hence we 
shall have forgotten that we ever asked such 
questions, and do we remember, it will be 
with a sentiment of shame — shame at our 
simplicity and ignorance; but it is always 
the way with these things. 

If a man has the opportunity to inquire 
into a new departure in life, he is a fool not 
to do so — and to interrogate as simply as 
possible. Of course, we know that a captain 
carries three stars on his sleeve and a strafe 
or two up it ; but we were ignorant, until 
Captain Linen told us, that a major is 
designated by a crown. We have learnt a 
good deal, but not enough, I fear, to prevent 
some astonishing " breaks " in BUghty. 

I hear that C.L.C. officers, owing to their 
lack of training, are apt to flatter the ranks 
on occasion and offend the powers that be. 
So that we may not be classed with stinking 
fish, the Assistant- Adjutant of camp — a man 
who knows, having become an officer at 
home in the normal way, escaping the in- 


cubator process associated with the C.L.C. — 
has drawn up for us a list of Do-Nots, which 
list we zealously peruse nightly before retire- 


As I write in our dormitory, where Harris 
lies on his bed close by, muttering Russian 
verbs to himself — if Harris survives the 
C.L.C. he plans to make his fortune some- 
where in Siberia — the sound of a cataract of 
voices reaches my ears ; it is something like 
the rushing of waters. The coolies are ex- 
pressing hunger ; the coolies, crowding round 
the camp cooks who are carrying wooden 
boxes of steaming rice from the kitchens 
to the Bunk -houses. Their hunger and 
capacity are on a par. All day donkeys 
drag cartloads of coolie provisions into 

Only fathers of large families know what 
a joy it is to have healthy happy children. 
One child was foolish last night. It happened 
in Bunk-house ii. The story is inconsecu- 
tive. A coolie, asleep on the top shelf, un- 
wittingly fell therefrom and considerably 
altered the shape of his head. This is possible. 
Probable it is that a shindy occurred and one 



or more of the combatants shoved a common 
enemy over the brink. 

At times the Chinese are extraordinarily 
careless of a fellow-creature's suffering. They 
left him lying on the floor bleeding through 
the ears, and altogether an indehcate sight. 
In which condition he was found by the 
Orderly Officer, and duly conveyed to the 
hospital ; where I saw him this morning, 
just the two eyes peeking from a white ball 
of bandages ; as though he had been in 

Our Uttle hospital is the busiest little place 
of its kind in North China ; and over it 
presides a model little doctor, neat and un- 
tiring, and a very nest of sweet persuasions. 
Most of the patients are throat or eye or 
stomach or circumcision cases. They sit or 
lie on camp beds in what would be to us un- 
comfortable positions ; never a man lies with 
legs outstretched on the flat of his back ; 
evidently such a natural "Western" position 
would not induce quietude and reverie ; the 
legs are always screwed up or tucked away, 
and the back bent. They look at you with 
just a little less animation than a coolie 
looks at his officer on parade. They look 


at you with quiet unquestioning eyes — the 
eyes of a sleepy trustful dog. 

To-day four companies, i.e. close on 2000 
men, passed through the doctor's hands. It 
was final examination day. Every coolie is 
medically re-examined a few days before 
departure. About 6 per cent were rejected 
entirely owing to eye troubles. At sunset this 
6 per cent stood a little apart from their 
successful mates ; in the shadow of the 
familiar chimney they stood disconsolately 
expectant, keenly enough aware of their fate, 
asking one another helplessly why the light 
of the new life was suddenly extinguished, 
why they had to return to the old meagre 
struggle for existence, why they should be 
made to lose face with their kinsmen and 
fellow-viUagers, just because the lids of their 
eyes were inflamed. They were to be sent 
home by to-night's train ; and the happy 
others, knowing this, went up to them, when 
their officer's eye was turned the other way, 
and gave them each a few coppers, at the 
same time bidding them farewell. 

I happened to be the officer in charge, but 
I affected not to see these secret gifts and 
sad good-byes. 


"All Companies and the Reserves will 
parade at 2 p.m. to be inspected by the 
Superintendent and to be photographed." 
So ran to-day's orders. It is the penultimate 
stage in the long and complex process of 
refinement which fits a coolie to go and do 
his bit in France. During this process the 
native comes in touch (sometimes in violent 
touch) at many points with Western ingen- 
uity ; he is submitted to much that is galling 
to his passive equable spirit. 

At the very outset the clothes are stripped 
off him and he is made to stand naked before 
a knowledgeable little Canadian doctor 
(always in khaki) who handles him as though 
he were a bit of dough, slapping him here 
and there, and turning him over and doubling 
him up and otherwise maltreating him ; all 
to ascertain if he has a sound enough body to 
work in the fields and by the canals of France. 
As if he hadn't garnered the harvests of 
twenty years in China ! As if he hadn't 



pushed and sailed a wheelbarrow with half 
a ton on it all the days of his manhood ! 

The spoliation of his clothes he does not 
mind, for he knows he is to get better. He 
has no false notions about nudity ; besides, 
he is not alone in his nakedness ; he is one 
of a single file of perhaps a score of men. 
To be robbed of his lifelong cultivated queue 
is distressing, but he has been warned and 
knows within him that it is for the best ; 
had he a plait of hair dangling down his back 
or screwed up in a bun under his cap, he 
would be laughed at in the white man's 
world, and to lose the personal product of a 
lifetime is better than to be mocked. 

There are abrupter stages in the process 
which cause him anxiety. His breast is 
pierced by a needle and liquid pumped into 
him for no apparent reason ; equally un- 
availing seems the act of scratching his arm 
with the blade of a knife and spreading more 
liquid over the bloody spots. Though high- 
sounding explanations are vouchsafed he 
cannot appreciate the virtues of moving his 
arms and legs with mechanical precision or 
of hmiting his outlook by making him look 
for ever to his front, or of doing exactly the 


same as 499 others at exactly the same 
moment. It makes a machine of him ; it 
trespasses upon his individuaUty. He sees 
his whole life being conformed to a pro- 
gramme, details of which are to be found in 
the . guard-room. His wakeful hours are 
taken from him, and whittled down from 
knobby independence to polished bounden 
duties. He is one of an obedient host in- 
stead of a village free-thinker and liver. 

He is a cipher. Nay, he is worse than 
that ; he is No. 106,542 ; vide the wooden 
tag that hangs from a button on his water- 
proof ; vide also the brass band which is 
riveted on his wrist. 

It may be recorded to his credit that he 
is proud of this ornament ; he never tries to 
cut or unrivet it; he realizes dimly that it 
is a symbol of his refinement, signifying a 
revaluation of the values of life. 

Detail for detail he finds himself clothed 
like five thousand others ; a waterproof is 
his to button up ; and he must needs explore 
the mysteries of a button-hole. 

Plant him five yards away and, if he isn't 
remarkably tall or short, he is the living 
image of his fellow. At least, in the old hfe, 


he was distinguishable from his fellow by 
degrees of uncouthness. Again, to receive 
exactly the same number of coppers per diem 
is disturbing after the ups and downs of a 
civilian cooUe existence. Many are the 
minor irreconcilable things. To spend a day 
in jail for an offence on the parade ground — 
at any time a natural operation — would 
seem to defy the most elementary laws 
of justice. To be caned on the side for 
saying something fresh and fraternal to a 
brother in the ranks would surely belong to 
the same category. To be forcibly taken to 
hospital on the casual declaration of a 
stomach-ache is simply absurd. To be sent 
home because the lids of the eyes are in- 
flamed is insane. A sequence indeed of un- 
reasonable matters. He cannot see them as 
a sequence. The waves that buffet him are 
too large for him to descry the sea. But 
over a sea he has sailed ; in the storm he is 
vaguely conscious of having covered great 
distances. He is now a long way from the 
shore of the old life. In moments of calm, 
when for example he is curled up on the top 
shelf of his Bunk-house, he is aware of a 
happiness in the new life ; he does not want 


to go back ; the light of adventure is dawn- 
ing in him ; his imagination quickens though 
his fancies soon perish, for he has but weak 
elusive facts and hearsays to base them on. 
Most of the day he is mentally in a state of 
mild coma. He cannot live up to the pace of 
his hfe. Things have gone past him. The 
changes have rushed and swamped him like 
waves. A little while and he will awaken, 
perhaps in France, and consider what has 
happened to him ; he will cautiously explore 
the new ground of his life ; he will relive the 
days in Tsangkou Camp and the length of 
the great voyage from China will contract, 
and here and there the vivid stages, with 
their concomitant scenes, will be visible. 

But at present it is all blur and shouting 
and the swishing of canes and swirls of dust 
from the barren knolls and broken farm- 
lands roundabout. 

And this business of photography this 
afternoon is calculated not least to mystify 
him. He stands at attention, still as a stone, 
forty minutes, an hour, an hour and twenty 
minutes, while a Httle fur-capped Jap, 
pinnacled on a scaffolding, plays peekaboo 
behind a black cloth, waving his arms 


frantically now and again in an effort to 
compress an odd 2000 men within visual 
grasp of his bothering lens. Officers shout 
and wave their canes. At last, everything 
seems ready for something to occur. A 
silence falls. Even the wind drops. The 
httle Jap holds up his hand and lowers it a 
moment later. It is all over. It is im- 
possible to say what it is all about. It is no 
more confusing but less tangible, more 
mysterious, perhaps, than the process of 

" J.T." party is now ready to go. Nothing 
remains now but to mark time a few days 
and then — to embark. 

Then came Embarkation Day. "J.T." party 
left camp about 9.30, to the blare of bugles 
and the blast of crackers. Fully equipped, 
looking less like labourers than China's first 
contingent, they marched to the station a 
few hundred yards away, where they were 
entrained for Tsingtau. Before finally 
leaving the parade ground they were allowed 
to break ranks, and make purchases from the 
stalls and shops of mushroom growth which 
had sprung up around there overnight. 
These sons of China, suddenly rich, indulged 


their fondest likes. Singlets they bought, 
and socks ; grey tunics and satin shoes ; 
waist-band purses to hold their newly-earned 
silver dollars ; caps and canes of Japanese 
manufacture ; all sorts of useful and useless 
knick-knacks ; and never a man but who 
carried a linen sack in which he had flung 
meat-pies and oranges, dried fish, and sundry 
other kinds of " chow," to sustain him on his 
voyage to the antipodes. 

For once the Chinese flung from them 
their habitual mask of indifference. Emotion 
among them ran riot. Many were drunk with 
excitement. Early in the morning they had 
been bathed and given new clothes. That 
had stirred them. Then had come the sudden 
getting of wealth ; a round sum of so many 
Mexican dollars, solid and heavy and imme- 
diately touchable. For weeks they had done 
uncommon things, the thought of which was 
profoundly exciting. And the future lay 
before them like a land of immense possi- 
bilities. But thought of both the past and 
the future came to them only subconsciously. 
They gladly lived for the moment and made 
a glorious thing out of life. 

It was all in the spirit of a children's 


garden fete, at which money ran like water. 
Proudly the parents stood apart, not un- 
touched by the scene, yet not borne away, 
for they were turning over in their minds the 
troublesome hours to come : the entraining, 
the embarkation, the allotment of the men 
to their bunks, the suppression of undue 
excitement on board, the checking of the 
men, and this and that to do with shipping 
an odd 2000 coolies to France. 

A quiet day followed on the departure of 
"J.T." party which, by the way, included 
Redbrick whose Yankeeisms and repartee 
will be missed by the mess ; as well as the 
Russian who until the ninth hour was 
tempted to return to his country and get 
the Bolshevik government to recognize him, 
voting, in the end, in favour of finding fame 
in the C.L.C. ; not to speak of Captain Linen, 
whose exemplary manners and " cricket " 
spirit have been such an efficacious antidote 
to our lance-corporal crudity. Others who 
have gone with him will be missed, each in 
his place — particularly at table where there 
is considerable rivalry to sit at the head, 
there being four heads in all. Why this 
rivalry should exist is inexplicable, save 


perhaps on the score that for a voluble chin- 
wagger it is positively inspiring to speak to 
two converging hnes of heads all looking in 
his direction. 

Harvie, the missionary and mountaineer 
of Japan, has the gift of the gab, being as 
facile in speech as he is on paper. At tififin 
he flickered hke a moth around the flaming 
question : Are those of us who have youth 
and sound bodies justified in joining the 
C.L.C. ? 

" What you mean to say," cried Clarison, 
" is, are we a bunch of bally slackers for not 
going home straight and getting into some 
O.T.C. ? " 

Harvie said he didn't wish to put the thing 
as bluntly as that, 

" What I am driving at is, what's the 
social position at home of a C.L.C. officer ? " 

Medcork ventured — ostracization. A new 
arrival, a Scot (known as Hackenschmidt, 
presumably because he is a size larger than 
Little Tich), scorned the notion : 

" We're treated as any other wee officers 
of the army and we work just as hard as 
most." Hackenschmidt knows, because he is 
clothed in khaki, having been at home with 


the coolies. " Our job," he went on, " is a 
special job. None but a mon who has lived 
out East could do it. All his civilian life 
out East is a training. Remember that." 

It was something worth remembering, to be 
sure, and none spoke for a little while. And 
then Clarison said — not inconsequentially : 

" I consider a commission in the C.L.C. a 
damned good billet." And he quoted Captain 
Linen to the effect that C.L.C. life in France 
was a desirable thing, carrying with it many 
perquisites, such as periodical home -leave, 
reasonable immunity from shells and bombs, 
bathing in Calais, " busts " in Boulogne, and 
even a week-end. in Paris. 

And he spoke of the French girls he would 
parley with and the EngUsh nurses he would 
meet. The which Hackenschmidt somewhat 
palliated by warning him that the lassies in 
France were usually too busy to flirt. 

" And it's as well to bear in mind that 
there's a war on. Oh, ay, there's a war on." 


And still the coolies come, two train-loads a 
day, although I hear that recruiting is 
stopped. And the new-comers are nothing 
different from their departed brothers ; given 
to open-mouthed wonder, and to childish 
excitements which, after a while, one ceases 
to share within one, save in extreme cases, 
where the coruscating eye and open mouth 
and gleaming teeth have an undefinable 
charm. It is difficult to move among the 
new recruits, showing them how and in what 
order to don their new unaccustomed clothes, 
forming them into squads of fifteen, appoint- 
ing a lance-corporal and leading them off 
into their Bunk-houses, without reflecting 
on the vast change that is coming over their 
lives, in what a turmoil of surprise and 
expectancy must their minds be ; some- 
thing akin, I suppose, to the emotion of a 
boy on his arrival at a boarding-school ; the 
unknown delightful to him, the confidence 
that he is going to be well-treated, immediate 



guarantee of which he finds in his splendid 
outfit. Yet in a clear sky of hopes and sur- 
prises blows a wind of strangeness, touched 
with an element of dread, the likelihood of a 
great hoax, or of sudden expulsion and ignoble 
return to village humdrum. 

The Chinese is emotional, though leading 
a normal life, treading the deep-rutted 
ancestral path, he will not manifest emotion 
save at exceptional moments. Here, of 
course, we catch them as it were off their 
guard ; their conscious reserve has been 
rudely awakened ; they display deep feelings. 
At first it is simple astonishment which 
drives them to erratic movement, wild ges- 
ture, all the abandon of a folk of southern 
Europe ; and then, after a few days, the 
distressing novelty passes and they slow 
down to something of their old passivity, 
some growing thoughtful of the hfe that is 
gone, nostalgia not being infrequent among 

The coolie is as fond of his home as the 
Englishman ; and he also can be a great 
lover. Officers have told stories of coolies 
suddenly bursting into tears and sitting down 
in the ranks for no apparent reason. Not 


sick, but homesick, is the explanation ; not- 
withstanding it is not accepted on parade as 
sufficient to justify a sedentary position. 

One has only to live in China six weeks to 
explode for oneself the theory that all 
Chinese look alike. It can as reasonably be 
said that all Italians look alike. One has 
only to be in a North China coolie camp a 
few days to become convinced that never 
such a variety of faces existed as among the 
Chinese. The practised eye fails to notice the 
nursery characteristics of a Chinese face — 
slanting eyes and yellowness — and looks for 
differences in the shape of the head, in the 
profile, in the size and quality of the eyes, 
etc. A high cheek-bone is, perhaps, the one 
common denominator. But there are ex- 
ceptions to that ; chubby cherubic faces, 
faces as round as an O, with cheeks as red 
as a haw; and faces white and Western. 
These latter not infrequently remind one of 
some one one knows. Again and again I 
have seen some distant friend looking at me 
through the eyes of a coolie. It is not so 
often a similarity of features as a similar 
manner of glancing, a corresponding spiritual 
light in the face. 


The party that was to go at the end of the 
month have given up hope of going before 
the middle or end of February. A great dis- 
appointment, over which some officers are 
like to kick their heels, but it will not do them 
the least good to raise a shindy. 

Our fate is with the War Office, which is 
not only preoccupied these days, but at the 
other end of the earth. 

" Our first experience with the War Ofiice," 
said a Canadian missionary, who has lain 
sick of a fever for many weeks and who now 
reappears looking like an alabaster image of 
a man, as much fit to drill coolies as a deli- 
cate nun. 

" And now our last," added Medcork. 

As usual those in authority know nothing, 
for they want to make no promises. Clarison 
has drifted from boredom into a beautiful 
contentment with life. Each morning he goes 
forth to his coolies with fresh enthusiasm ; 
like a vicar visiting his flock. He puts words 



of caution and encouragement into the mouth 
of his interpreter, conve5dng that the longer 
his sons are here the more efficient must they 
eventually become, the better they will be 
thought of in France, the more envied by 
their colleagues already there. He crushes 
their ardent desire to go, taunting them 
with an unpatriotic impulse to walk before 
they can stand, to leave their country just 
because they are in camp. He sums up 
irresistibly, averring that a good thing once 
got seems all the better for having waited 
for it. Clarison's spirit is admirable ; an 
example to the mess. 

He is deeply attached to his sons and goes 
about the business of bringing them up with 
a quiet conviction in the splendour of their 
future. In return he is rewarded with 
obedience. Even his sons refuse their pay, 
thinking it comes out of his own pocket and 
wishing him to benefit by their modest 
incomes. Five coppers each per diem, and 
these they would return to him, and he must 
needs use a cane in order to compel them to 
keep the money for their own pleasure. No 
longer has he need to fine for insubordination 
or to cane for something worse ; nothing 


goes wrong ; and nothing much happens. 
For when an officer has slipped from boredom 
into a beautiful contentment with life, he no 
longer spits fire at his men or slashes or 
stamps or does anything of a magnetic nature 
calculated to produce swift motion ; he is 
not a friend of inertia, nor is he an enemy ; 
he has compromised with his virgin instinct 
to make machines of his men ; he suffers 
their tendency to take it easy. 

Others of a stiffer fibre, like Harris, resist 
the decadent ravages of time. Harris, being 
a journalist, knows human nature. 

" Give a man something different to do 
every day," he cries, " and he will never 
grow stale." 

Notwithstanding, staleness is creeping over 
his company — like paralysis. He has been 
too long at them ; they do not quicken at 
his command ; no longer do the p'aitous 
tremble and the men bow down. They know 
their CO. too well. They have discovered 
in him a human kindness and are trading on 
it for all they are worth. Of which, of 
course, Harris is innocent. He alternates 
drill with calisthenics, relay races with tugs- 
o'-war ; he makes his company form fours 


at all points of the compass ; march back- 
wards ; goose-step; do jiu-jitsu; he 
harangues them in several languages ; he 
listens to their innumerable complaints and 
suggestions ; he makes and breaks promises ; 
he imposes sweeping fines ; gives efficiency 
prizes ; in fact, does every mortal thing to 
maintain their interest in camp existence. 
But staleness is like a plague — difficult of 
prevention. The ginger is going out of their 
manual drill ; the sparkle out of their march- 
ing. There is a tendency to take things easy. 
A little while, and Harris will notice it ; and 
then he, too, will join in the choice denuncia- 
tion of the War Office ; which, we may 
hazard, is not responsible. Nobody is re- 
sponsible. Nobody has ever been responsible 
for any of the disasters of this war. 


One night towards the end of the month the 
monotony of camp life was magnificently 
broken, and in a (for me) quite unexpected 
manner. I was having a pipe in my bed- 
room, talking Russian literature with Harris, 
when about six o'clock came the sound of 
police whistles continuously and excitedly 
blown. I rushed downstairs and carried on 
with several officers, who had run out into 
the nippy night hatless, and (what seemed to 
me a foolish omission) stickless, towards the 
seat of disturbance. Arrived there, we found 
one of the Bunk-houses in an uproar ; a 
confusion of shouting coolies who were being 
clubbed and tumbled by the sentries, some 
showing fight, but most trying to get out of 
the way and only getting in one another's 
in the attempt. An arc lamp shed a pale 
bluish hght on a liquid mob of figures 
which, like a rapid, fell and rose angrily over 
a bed of boulders. It was plain that the 

native police had lost their heads, and in the 



effort to avert a peril were bruising and 
blood-letting without respect of persons or 
flesh. Among us was one who spoke Chinese 
and he soon got out of an hysterical sentry 
that a mob of coolies had rushed a certain 
gate-keeper, obtained the key to a back 
entrance to the camp and fled over towards 
the moonUt hills before the latter could 
recover himself sufficiently to effect the 
capture of a single insurrectionist. How 
many had escaped he did not know. Some 
said hundreds, others thousands. At all 
events it was a successful coup ; and it went 
without saying he had nothing to do with it. 

" Then," cried an officer, " why the devil 
are you knocking these men about ? " 

He did not know ; and, at the time, no 
more was said, for he was impressed into a 
chase-and-capture party which was hurriedly 
improvised and which set out after the mis- 
creants at the double. The latter had a 
start of at least a quarter of an hour, which 
enabled them to scatter widely over the up 
and down sand-dunish country which lies 
between camp and a range of rocky barren 
hills distant about forty li. 

Being pathless and roadless and full of 


channels and j&ssures and gullies, as though 
it had been trench-dug and then shelled with 
high explosives, the country was not quickly 
covered and a moon which cast deceptive 
shadows did not help to quicken the chase. 
But, unluckily for them, the Chinese are not 
good short-distance runners ; that is, they can 
run most of the day, but are left by us when 
it comes to sprinting ; and to sprinting it 
came, for many fatigued and peace-seeking 
officers. Few men regret an adventure of 
this kind, but all have their notions about 
the time it should take place. Six o'clock ; 
tea ; a pipe ; gossip. As he ran panting, 
Harris poured out execrations on the heads of 
coolies in general, at the same time backing 
his own physique against the physique of 
any man who ran in the chase. He pro- 
phesied the coming of his second breath, 
with which he swore to catch the fleetest 
absconder. Stragglers were soon overtaken ; 
breathless and bewildered wretches, who as 
soon as they were caught went down on their 
knees and knocked their heads on the 
ground. The mercy they asked was not 
shown. The camp poUce, outnumbering the 
captives, cast them down and sat upon them 


and beat them as one would beat a carpet — 
a thing of neither head nor foot. After which 
they were bound together and sent back to 
camp. This took place on the confines of a 
village which rang with the noise and excite- 
ment of the chase ; some searched perfectly 
peaceable huts, which gave forth howhng 
dogs and gaping natives, but nothing like 
escaped units of the C.L.C. 

A brief confab of chasers at this point 
resulted in the adoption of deploying tactics. 
It was found possible to beat up a wide extent 
of country with a score of officers and police. 
So, from the village, out and on towards the 
hills, each man pushed his lonely and peril- 
ous way, hallooing now and again to keep in 
touch with his confederates. For a consider- 
able distance we chased imaginary coolies 
over an imaginary way of escape and, nothing 
transpiring, the futility of these moments of 
life was brought home to us ; and we would 
have given up hope of being heroic and 
reaching the hills (whither, of course, ban- 
dits, coolies, criminals and the like hasten in 
time of trouble), when one among us stumbled 
against a pile of something soft and cushion- 
like, which on inspection proved to be cast- 


off maroon-coloured waterproofs. About ten. 
It was indeed paper, and tally-ho ! We now 
skirmished through a grove of mulberry 
trees. The branches extended their curving 
arms and crooked fingers in the moonlight. 
And then came an exciting moment. We 
sighted shadows moving swiftly towards us 
from our left. They came on, dodging the 
trees, three — four — six of them. " CooUes," 
I thought, " who have lost their sense of 
direction." Followed a silent chase of the 
" enemy," from tree to tree. It was very 
curious. As much as they desired escape 
they appeared attracted towards us, chasing 
rather than being chased, yet hesitating — 
till I cornered one between a tree and a 
frozen creek, the solidity of which he did not 
seem anxious to test. I don't know whether 
they or we had deployed in the wrong 
direction. But the chasers were chasing one 
another among mulberry trees on a moon- 
light night in January. It was rather 

From this point, the chase lost its salt, the 
adventure its savour. We plodded rather 
than sprinted over thousands of yards of 
broken ground, frequently losing sight of 


camp whose lights were splendidly visible so 
long as one could get high enough to see 
them. A roundabout route brought us back 
to camp in time for a late dinner. Stories of 
the hunt were strung together and it was 
ascertained that not more than a score of 
the runaways had been recovered. These 
were snugly housed in jail. The remainder, 
approximately eighty, were goodness knows 
where ; and it is unlikely we shall ever know. 

They are fools to go, as their more patient 
fellows will tell them in the years to come. 
They run away from immediate security of 
life ; from good food and good clothes and 
much rest ; also, they slip the opportunity 
to see the world and make money, and what 
more could a coolie desire ? 

It may well be asked : if these things are 
apparent to the coolies, why do they plan 
and effect an escape in the spirit of prisoners 
circumventing their warder ? The exact cause 
is unknown. This much is determined : a 
malicious report has lately gained credence 
among them that the last two transports 
were either torpedoed, or captured by the 
Germans ; a story, needless to say, entirely 
baseless. Chinese of this class are an im- 


pressionable folk ; a ringleader (possibly in 
the pay of the enemy, for there are Germans 
at large close by) could without difficulty so 
work on the minds of many that they should 
come to believe that escape from camp was 
as good as escape from death. It is said that 
the coolies cried " Save your life," " Save your 
life," as they rushed the sentry. Be this as 
it may, the incidence of the Chinese New 
Year is not to be overlooked. New Year is 
general settlement time ; all debts are paid ; 
all feuds are settled ; the family gathers 
round and feasts and merrymakes. It is a 
favourite festival, deprivation of which makes 
a Chinese fretful. The more so if a coolie, 
instead of being embarked on the new life 
that is promised him, is detained in camp 
well-nigh a moon awaiting the arrival of a 

One could moralize on the matter until 
sunrise. Suffice it that our sons were well 
harangued to-day ; they were humoured 
into good temper and remain simple and 
happy, which is their true nature. We are 
not in mourning for the loss of our children ; 
after all we have so many ; and it is best to 
be rid of bad eggs. 


The following night there was a repetition 
of the affair, though on a smaller scale, and 
more cunningly carried out. A score escaped 
by making a hole in the roof of their Bunk- 
house, whence a climb down to the road 
which half encircles camp, was a simple 
matter. The escape was complete, no alarm 
being given by the sentries ; which was 
perhaps a good thing, as the fatigued fathers 
were enabled to pass the night without dis- 
turbance. Clarison, to his mortification, was 
the chief loser. 

" What are the fellows playing at ? " he 
cried indignantly at breakfast. " I was so 
fond of them and they were so fond of me ; 
there was not the faintest mist of misunder- 
standing between us." 

Clarison, losing none in the previous coup, 
had prided himself that neither nostalgia 
nor enemy machinations could deprive him 
of the weakest of his sons. He was sorely 
put out. 

" Och, aye ! " said Hackenschmidt, " the 
lads are verra homesick." 

Then Medcork, after his manner : 

"You see; in a week we won't have a 
CQplie left in camp." 


" What happens to us, then ? " asked 
Harvie, much disturbed, 

Goodyear ventured to say that even if the 
fathers were childless they would in the end 
get landed in France. Medcork made the 
tame remark that in any case we were 
bound to get landed. Goodyear persisted 
that our fate was in the hands of God. 
None in mess daring to dispute this, a silence 
fell ; and the fathers meditated the ingrati- 
tude of certain of their sons ; and when 
conversation sprang up again, it centred on 
the reason why they had run away. Accusa- 
tions were made of unnecessary cruelty ; the 
imposition for instance of fourteen days' fine 
for losing a cap, and imprisonment for arguing 
the point with a native N.C.O., exposure on 
certain days to the north wind, and so forth ; 
at which Clarison held up his hands in horror, 
saying that moral chastisement such as 
shaming a man before his company was much 
more effective than bodily reprimand. 

Lieutenant Hitard, who, after recovering 
from being gassed in the early anxious days 
of the war, was gazetted to the C.L.C., on 
account of his knowledge of Chinese (many 
others at home have, by the way, suffered a 


similar fate for the same reason), and who is 
an iron discipUnarian, having been " put 
through it " himself as a Tommy, laughed at 
Clarison's kindly dogma. 

" Nothing," laid down Lieutenant Hitard, 
" knocks anything into a coolie so well as a 
nose-bleed." He is well practised at drawing 
a coolie's blood at first slap. 

" Giving a coolie a bloody nose, do you 
mean to say ? " asked Harvie academically. 

"A bit thick," some one commented in a 

" Och, mon," cried Hackenschmidt, " they 
soon get over it and bear you no malice, 

The truth of this would have undoubtedly 
been challenged by Clarison had he not been 
in a weak position, having lost so many men 
the night before. 


With the spirit of unrest abroad, it is clearly 
the duty of the officer of the night guard to 
pay frequent and unexpected visits to the 
Bunk-houses. It may be his luck to nip an 
escape in the bud. At any rate, he now goes 
his rounds looking for trouble. In this frame 
of mind he is likely to frighten innocents 
with his menacing approach and presence. 
Stealthily he lifts the latch of a Bunk-house 
and peers within, thinking to frustrate some 
daring plot at the psychological moment. 
It is perhaps with a sense of disappointment 
that he sees how snugly Chinese can pack 
their bodies on shelves and sleep peacefully, 
mostly on their backs, with not two inches 
between them to spare. Hundreds and 
hundreds of them, for the most part capped 
and coated, with their shoes stuck in racks, 
neat and orderly. A few have taken off their 
clothes and lie naked, with a blanket under 
them, and their waterproof thrown over them 
for cover. Unaware, and if aware, careless, 



of his presence, they turn over in their sleep, 
one, it may be, wriggling to his knees re- 
arranging his narrow bed and collapsing into 
unconsciousness. He may be squinted at by 
half-open bloodshot eyes, but the eyes will 
not take cognisance of him. Some lie with 
their hands dangling over the shelf ; they 
are snoring horribly ; it does not seem to 
matter. Like no man he has known ; like 
no animal he can imagine. Others are com- 
pletely wrapt in their coats, head and all, 

Heads next to feet, and feet next to heads ; 
shelves of bodies generating heat. A small 
oil lamp at either end of the tomb. It is 
indeed a tomb of the living, ghostly lit. 
Perhaps in one corner, on the second shelf, 
three dots of light which move and a wisp of 
smoke, denoting life. Three coolies in confab, 
sitting close together on their heels, mumbling 
in monotone an endless triologue. 

For all he knows, they are discussing 
escape ; wakeful ringleaders of all those 
asleep and snoring ; he regrets his ignorance 
of their language ; and leaves them. In 
another house he may find more activity, 
more wakefulness, more attention to his 


presence. Grins may greet him, he may 
have things said to him. One may be 
straining his eyes over some Chinese novel ; 
another may have squatted down near a 
lamp to write a letter. A plump little 
specimen may reach out at him from the 
floor and grasp his ankle playfully or hold 
and shake his stick ; with no word but the 
silent welcome of a smile ; with no intention 
but a child's ; gentle, comforting, inexplicable. 
By and by he returns to the guard-room, 
confident that to-night there is no spirit of 
unrest abroad. 


A FOOTNOTE to recent orders reminded 
officers that the recreation of coolies off 
parade was as important as the business of 
drilling them. Since when there has been 
considerable head-scratching over the most 
politic manner of recreating our sons. Five 
o'clock tea and a tango on the top shelf of 
the Bunk-house met with well-merited de- 
rision. Mr. Goodyear suggested that more 
valuable use of the time could not be made 
than to preach the gospel ; he pictured the 
conversion to Christianity of his entire com- 

" A wide field for a missionary, quite un- 
tilled ! I don't know why it didn't occur to 
me before," he said, with the air of one who 
has made a great discovery. 

But his enthusiasm cooled when some one 
pointed out that he would have to preach 
the gospel through an interpreter, he not 
knowing a dozen words of Chinese. Japanese 
he could speak like a native. 



" But what good is that ? Like Greek 
speaking to Roman." And forgetting all 
about recreating the coolies he began to 
talk about the helplessness of an officer 
ignorant of the lingo. " Why," said he 
in Canadian-intoned English, "I can't help 
saying there are many times when I would 
give anything to smack a coolie in the face, 
but I dare not for he might not be aware 
why I struck him, and if he asked me I 
should not be able to explain. If a man be 
punished and know not why, he is punished 
to no avail." 

Mr. Goodyear confessed, however, that 
once, perhaps twice, anger had driven him 
to Uft his hand against his fellow-creature ; 
he had regretted the act and shaped an 
apology which he would have assuredly 
made, had he been able to make it in person. 
("Damned good thing he doesn't know the 
language," commented Lieutenant Hitard a 
little later.) Again, he considered his noc- 
turnal visits to the Bunk-houses lost their 
spice, nay, inspired distrust and a sense of 
espionage, because he could not chat with 
his men in Chinese. 

" I go into those evil-smelling places, and 


prowl about silent and gloomy as a sphinx, 
as though I would not willingly speak with 
the least of my sons, and let him know 
that I had his lot in my mind, comfort 
him if need be and encourage him to have 
patience till the transport come. I would 
try to paint for him the life to come ; how 
on his return from the pilgrimage to France 
he would be treated in his own land as 
one of the elect ; how he could turn his 
military training to great advantage by 
becoming a soldier of China, a unit of a 
powerful army, which would rid the rich 
province of Shantung of the covetous Japanese 
for a generation at any rate. A glorious aim, 
which he would do well to bear in mind." 

Returning to the recreation problem, 
Clarison suggested such indoor pastimes as 
tiddle-y-winks, dice-throwing and coin toss- 
ing, the Chinese being passionately fond of 
gaming of all kinds. But the idea carried 
with it hints of internecine trouble, so it was 
turned down. Harvie submitted that the 
initiation of evening classes for the study of 
English and French would both relax the 
coolies and refine them. Hackenschmidt, 
who plays the violin, foreshadowed for his 


company a series of afternoon and evening 
concerts, to embrace both the classics and 
ragtime, with a savouring of free adaptations 
from Chinese melodies. Branch, a cock-sure, 
lay-down-the-law individual, who recently 
returned from up-country, where he was 
engaged in recruiting coolies, and who is 
something of a water-colourist, proposed an 
exhibition in his company's Bunk-house of 
Chinese landscapes. 

So great was the diversity of suggestions 
that none was adopted, and the executive, 
in desperation to get the new order carried 
out, laid down that coolies, when off parade, 
should be amused with football, tug-o'-war, 
and leap-frog; all admittedly manly sports, 
but sports which are played after dark only 
with attendant risks and difficulties. 

"Aside from the fact," grumbled Clarison, 
"that it is deucedly awkward to umpire a 
game of soccer when 250 are playing on each 


Being a lover of a good polemic, I delighted 
to hear Lieutenant Hitard and Harvie raise 
their voices over the question whether or not 
the Chinese coolie is possessed of the finer 
emotions. Neither disputant attempted to 
define the latter^ — ^which would have been 
well for the clarity and orderliness of the 
argument — and before they had gone very 
far I gathered that they were wrangling not 
about emotions at all, but about traits of 
character. Lieutenant Hitard would not 
credit the coolie with any sense of gratitude, 
with any good faith, with any trustworthi- 

He said it was all very well to idealize 
them — that is to place them on a moral level 
with the white man — in camp, where the 
conditions of life were as near perfect as 
possible ; that is they were heartily fed, 
warmly clothed, and dryly housed : they 
had no complaints, no deprivations to pit 
the darkest instincts in them against the 

H 97 


best. Like lions they lay down with the hart 
and the lamb so long as they were contented. 
Empty their bellies and let the north wind 
blow on them and the rain of Flanders lash 
them and they roared Uke the ungovernable 
beast. In France, where, for all the Press 
eulogies about the perfect arrangements made 
for the rationing of the C.L.C., an abundance 
of rice was not always obtainable, and where, 
of course, the weather was hopelessly variable, 
refusals to go out to work, resulting in riots, 
were not infrequent. Hitard gave several 
examples from his own experience. And he 
warned Harvie he would find out the thing for 

" There isn't a spark of gratitude in a 
coolie ; deprive and discomfort him, as I 
have already described, and he'll forget 
everything decent and indecent that you ever 
did for him. Being primitive he lives com- 
pletely in the moment. His memory — such 
as it is — serves him only for bad, not for 
good. So long as you treat him well he will 
remember you ; turn your back on him and 
he will forget you ; maltreat him and he will 
show his teeth." Hitard leaned back in his 
chair (it was after dinner in the cosy room) 


and pulled at his pipe with an air of " the 
argument is done," thinking that his oppo- 
nent had not a leg to stand on. 

As indeed he hadn't, the academic fellow ; 
but not to be silenced he insisted on his first 
principle that there is a fund of good in every 
man, be he Cockney or Caucasian, cannibal 
or coolie. 

" It only needs to be drawn upon, like a 
bank account, in order to be profitably spent. 
Devotion and daring can be purchased — the 
two cardinal virtues of the Westerner — ^they 
are instinct in every coolie that ever came 
into this camp ; and there is no reason why 
we should not cultivate them in him to such 
a point that mere rain and hunger should 
not cancel his loyalty." 

The mess admired Harvie's rhetoric but 
not the force of his argument. Hitard, not 
wishing to destroy Harvie's faith in the 
innate soundness of coolie nature — a beauti- 
ful faith to be sure, which may or may not 
meet with disillusionment — ^began to talk 
inconsequentially of the pleasures of Paris 
and Boulogne, which is always a favourite 
topic of mess conversation. 


One night, not long before our own Em- 
barkation Day, came suddenly the sound of 
police whistles. The centre of disturbance 
lay in the hospital. One of the inmates, a 
surly criminal type, was howling within like 
a wild cat and rushing about gaily breaking 
everything humanly breakable. He wanted 
to be sent home and decided that the Ad- 
ministration would not tolerate a madman 
for many hours. So he feigned insanity ; 
and with perfect success. He must now 
admit, however, that it was rather a costly 
manner of going about the business, for 
before spending the night in jail, he had first 
to be rendered unconscious and then bound 
hand and foot. Clarison had the honour of 
dealing the knock-out, "with a stick," that 
equable-minded officer will add in his version 
of the story, "nearly as stout as a baseball 
bat." Had it been a Western cranium, it 
would have cracked. A Chinese head stands 
astonishingly more than a stiff blow. 


If it had taken place elsewhere than in a 
hospital where at least a score of our sons 
lay sick and helpless, the incident would have 
been welcomed by the mess as a source of 
excitement, affording the amateur psycho- 
logist a striking study in the histrionic powers 
of the Chinese coolie. As it was, the poor 
patients were paralysed with fright, and We 
entered the ward to find many of them kneel- 
ing naked on the floor praying to some 
divinity or other to deliver them from the 
madness of their fellow. 



We style ourselves the O.K. party. We are 
13 officers and 4200 coolies strong, 8^ com- 
panies together with 5 interpreters and a 
medical assistant. Of the officers, three 
have seen service in France. Of the coolies, 
about half have had a month's training in 
camp ; the rest are quite new to the game. 
My Company (E) is made up mainly of new- 
comers. I prefer it thus. They have not had 
time to get stale. They are " carrying on " in 
the great adventure unhandicapped by cloy- 
ing memories of misdemeanours in camp. 
Yet they are not by any means a rabble. It 
would be strange if I did not consider them 
the most efficient company in the party. I 
do. So does Clarison consider his B Com- 
pany. I am glad to say Clarison is of our 
party. His temper is so even ; his influence 
over both officers and men so excellent. 
"Not by any means a rabble," he will tell 



you. "The march from camp to the station 
was the first route march they had ever been 
on. Ranks were not broken ; not even by a 
horde of niggers who had gathered on the 
roadside to sing and play for and show de- 
formed Umbs to the newly -rich coolies." 
You see the men had just received their 
separation bonuses, and possessed on an 
average $2.50 each. A fortune. They could 
well afford to fling coppers to their less 
fortunate countrymen. Imagine their gener- 
ous gestures, their laughter with gleams of 
teeth and tossing heads. They had not ex- 
pected to get away so soon. Only a week in 
camp. Brothers who took the plunge before 
them had told of their long detention in 
camp. A month, six weeks, and over the 
New Year too, a season when they most 
liked to gather round the family hearth and 

There they were, a column of 500 men 
swinging down the road to Tsangkou with 
the nonchalance and ease of seasoned troops. 
No more hke a gang of labourers than a 
Highland regiment. It was a delight to see 
them leap into the goods trucks which were 
to convey the battalion to Tsingtau — the 


first brief stage in the long and often broken 
journey to France. Some of them had never 
seen the sea before. A mile or so of jolting 
and a great blue sheet of water, smooth 
and iridescent as the pupil of an eye, lay 
stretched before them. Possibly the events 
of the morning had been too numerous and 
pressing to leave the mind free to wonder 
and to meditate much more, but the miracle 
of this infinite blue thing must certainly 
have brought home to them, as nothing per- 
haps had ever done, the inexhaustibleness of 
the earth. Likewise, though in a lower key, 
the sight of the ship after which they had 
so often and so fondly inquired did surely 
astonish them. To many, without doubt, it 
was not a ship at all, but a part of the dock 
(in which our Blue Funnel boat lay) set apart 
and superior ; enterable by three gangways 
preliminary to embarking on the vessel of 
their imagination ; a colossal sampan, we 
may picture it, capable of sailing them to 
the seat of their labours in Whiteman's Land. 
No wonder, then, that more attention was 
paid to purchasing sweetmeats and cakes and 
peanuts and fruit from the hawkers on the 
dock than to an examination, never so super- 


ficial, of the pretty grey mass of steel that 
awaited her human cargo in Tsingtau Bay. 

Company by company, the cooUes em- 
barked. It was all done in most orderly 
fashion. Hardly ever a man out of place in 
the apparently endless files streaming into the 
capacious boat up three gangways. On the 
wharf were piled thousands of well-stuffed 
kit-bags. Each coolie took one as he moved 
towards the gangway. Its rich practical 
contents he was not to explore until he lay 
securely in his particular bunk, fore, aft, or 
amidships, as luck placed him, with a strict 
enough injunction not to stir therefrom until 
he was told to do so by his commanding 
officer. To most of them it was a house, 
part of the quay, as I have already said, in 
which the quarters were cleaner and roomier 
and better lighted and heated than in camp. 
There he stayed, bewildered but comfortable, 
curiously examining the contents of his kit- 
bag, while others of his kind were embarking 
and being berthed in all parts of the ship. 

By dusk they were mostly aboard and had 
already had their first meal ; the lance- 
corporals (or third-class gangers, as we are 
told to call them now) falling in and marching 


through the front and starboard galleys, 
drawing rations for their men, quite as good, 
if not better than they had been given in 
camp. Abundant baskets of rice and tins of 
boiled cabbage were indeed devourable after 
the long cold wait on the quay previous to 
embarkation. When darkness fell, making 
the decks places of odd dangers with the 
unexpected pipings and winches and scuppers 
common to a cargo boat, there were few 
coolies abroad. With full bellies and a sense 
of security, they lay in their bunks, hundreds 
of them in a hold. Confusion of mind as 
well as physical fatigue drove them to sleep. 
So many extraordinary things had happened 
during the day. It was indeed a climax to 
the sequence of upsetting novelties in camp. 
I may hazard not one of them took thought 
for the morrow. To-day was big enough 
with events. A few of an adventurous turn 
stole on deck after dark and bruised their 
shins against ungiving steel. 


Discharged duties of orderly of&cer from 
II p.m. of the 25th to i p.m. this morning, 
the 26th. Two hours during which the wind 
steadily increased in violence. When I turned 
in, a typhoon was shrieking aloft, with sleet 
lashing the deck. Now and again a ghostly 
figure would appear in the hatchway, hesitate 
before the spectacle of the typhoon, become 
hunched and glide to a retreat on the other 
side of the deck. For these Shantung farmers 
there were many strange moments during 
this first night on board. 

All day we lay on the wharf, the whole ship 
now coated with ice. Many a coolie slipped 
and fell, laughing and muttering words of 
mockery to themselves, as is their childish 
way. Official appointments were made to-day, 
special sanitary and police squads being told 
off to keep order and cleanliness on board. 
The police were given uniforms and formid- 
able sticks which, they were told, were for 
the purpose of frightening, not of injuring, 


their fellows. Our police are proud and 
dignified : even they have been known to 
give " beans " to some undesirable members 
of the Cantonese crew with, of course, 
disastrous results. The Cantonese and 
Northerners are at loggerheads. It seems 
to be a racial rather than a political anti- 
pathy ; for our peaceable Shantung men 
know next to nothing of politics, and have 
but a vague conception of the whereabouts 
and importance of Peking. Their village is 
also their capital. And a few fertile acres of 
their province is the world. Now, to be sure, 
they are learning otherwise. They are coming 
up against Cantonese in the flesh, and as the 
Shantung men are immeasurably superior 
physically they manage to more than hold 
their own. 

The matter of policing the ship is easy to 
arrange. Our ist and 2nd class gangers 
(old style : sergeants and corporals) officiate. 
Used to authority for some days, they find 
no difficulty in now exercising it to a greater 
degree. Then, again, the clothes make the 
man. And the lust of power is strong in 
every coolie. 

With the sanitary squad it is not such 


plain sailing. Not only doth dirt corrupt 
the average Shantung man's house, but it is 
never removed. They carry their lax habits 
with them into camp, where the sweeping up 
is done for them. They do not learn any 
better until they get on board ship, where 
they have to do their own cleansing. A 
section of 15 men is detailed daily to restore 
the sleeping quarters to a livable condition. 
If the officer is not particularly careful in his 
inspection, he will overlook the fact that 
the "restoration" is quite superficial, orange 
peel and papers and peanut shells, leek stalks 
and other malodorous things being swept into 
a corner and nudged under a board. Again, 
if he spy after inspection he will probably 
observe his sanitary squad shelling peanuts 
on the floor that they have just cleaned. 
Again, the decks and scuppers in the vicinity 
of the men's quarters are apt to suffer indigni- 
ties. It is enough to break the heart of the 
British seaman : a passionate lover of clean, 
smooth wood and polished steel. By dint of 
dealing out severe punishment to offenders, 
my company, at any rate, will learn to be 
sanitary. I have ordered my police to arrest 
any man who thinkingly or unthinkingly 


litters the floor of the hold. The culprit will 
be confined thereto and have a refuse barrel 
strapped on his back. Above any quality of 
man I know, a coolie hates to be ridiculed. 
By wretchedness and ridicule they will come 
to be clean. If cleanhness is next to godli- 
ness, my coolies during the past 24 hours have 
been on the highroad to Paradise. 

Towards dawn of the twenty-seventh, the 
wind weakened. At 6 a.m. the sun broke 
through the dark ragged tail of the typhoon, 
and the town of Tsingtau, with its clean-cut, 
Rhenish buildings, became visible from deck. 
The coolies crowded through the hatchways 
and lined the scuppers, leaning on the deck 
rail, wondering if after all they were on the 
ship, if they were reaUy going to start their 
long-delayed voyage to France. For a whistle 
had blown, a whistle which made their ears 
sing. A few minutes later and, to be sure, 
they were moving away from the dock ; 
as though a portion of the dock had become 
detached and was drifting out to sea ; as 
though (and this impression was even 
stronger) the shore were receding from them. 
And it went on receding until nothing was 
left but a torn ribbon of hills, snow-clad. 


beautiful enough. The last, indeed, that 
they were to see of China for many a moon ; 
the last, probably, that some were ever to see. 
The gale of the preceding 36 hours had 
left a considerable swell in the China Sea. 
We were hardly out of the harbour before 
we began to feel it. It sent the coolies sneaking 
to their bunks. It caught some of them mid- 
way between deck and hatchway. It terrified 
some so that they fell on their knees before 
me and clasped their hands and bowed them 
up and down, as they supplicate before 
their gods. Had they been children they 
would have cried. Being childish men, they 
prayed for a remedy. I cured a few of the 
youngsters (in my company there are boys 
of 14 to 18) by laughing at them. The old 
'uns, who took the matter dead seriously, 
I sent to their respective holds. The decks 
being quickly clear of men, I went down into 
one of the bunk-holds amidships, where an 
odd 150 of my company are quartered. I 
could hear their groans before I got down 
to them. Like a house of mild torture. 
The majority had collapsed. A few, their 
strength suddenly gone, lay on the boarded 
floor, unable to climb into their bunks. It 


was a spectacle of weakness. A handful — old 
sea-dogs or those fortunate ones who are not 
affected at sea — were assisting their brothers. 
They showed the sort of spirit which makes 
one positively love the Chinese — the Chinese 
of Shantung at any rate. They are wonder- 
fully good to one another in adversity. They 
have warm hearts and willing hands. There 
was something so eternally and touchingly 
human about this business that whatever 
vestige remained in me of the conventional 
conception of the coolie quite disappeared. 
I could and can no longer associate (primarily) 
with the coolie the faintest idea of frigidity, 
of yellow skin stretched over puny bones. 
The red blood runs strong within them. 
They are the backbone of China, whose body 
one day shall be again politically and spiritu- 
ally great. 

The twenty-eighth was an uneventful day 
at sea. A score or two of coolies, standing on 
newly-begotten sea-legs, roamed about the 
boat with a spirit of curiosity. They peered 
into the engine-room as an excursionist might 
peer into the mouth of an active volcano. 
They hearkened to the clang and roar of 
the reciprocating engines and shook their 


heads at the mystery of it all. They stood 
in the fo'c'sle-head and watched for hours 
the deliberate parting of the waters. They 
fondly examined the winches and, like boys 
at the mechanical age, unscrewed any nut 
that would turn, not infrequently with re- 
sultant escape of steam and a curse from the 
Cantonese crew. They loitered in the galleys, 
befriended the cooks, and watched the rice 
bubbling and steaming in half a dozen enor- 
mous cauldrons . In the holds they climbed up 
into the topmost bunks and fondled the steel 
plates and rivets of the decks. A Ufebelt 
being provided for each man and to be found 
in his bunk, he must needs put it on and 
amuse himself. Defying their own police, 
they ventured into forbidden places, the boat 
deck for instance, where the boatswain 
caught them and lashed at them with a davit 
rope. Even they set foot on the ladder lead- 
ing up to the captain's bridge and grinned at 
the officer on duty. Do what they would, it 
was mischievously done, done out of un- 
restrainable curiosity ; never with thought of 
giving the least offence. One could no more 
punish them for it than one could prohibit the 
springtime lark of a schoolboy. The officers 


of the ship might openly scowl at them for 
some minor breach of ship's discipUne, but 
behind their backs, in the compact seclusion 
of our Uttle saloon, they would laugh at the 
infant ways of the coolies and say what jolly 
good fellows they were. 

Their simple, sunny natures make them 
easy to handle. A laugh is cheaply pur- 
chased. One has only to stand in the fo'c'sle- 
head, lean on the deck railing, let a few coolies 
gather around one, heave one's arm broadly 
indicating the China Sea, say " kao pu km " 
(good-not good ?), and shouts of laughter 
and assenting cries of kao kao will greet one 
graciously enough. Then, perhaps if one 
lingers, " taking in " the scene in order to 
satisfy a quickening sense of beauty, one 
will presently find a coolie by one's side, 
imitating one's own meditative pose, looking 
out oversea in the same direction and glancing 
at one surreptitiously now and again to see 
if one is still looking. A little while, and 
perhaps the coolie will edge a bit closer and 
whisper a few words in a tone of great con- 
fidence, whether of complaint or faith or in- 
terrogation one knows not through ignorance 
(how often deplored !) of their language. 


We dropped anchor in the outer bay of 
Nagasaki a little after midnight of the 
twenty-eighth. For one coolie who noticed 
(full moon as it was) the beauty of the most 
fairylike harbour on earth, perhaps four 
thousand commented on the fact that the 
engines had stopped, that there were lights 
flickering and reflected all around the ship, 
and that those jagged-edged bulks, darker 
than the night, lying to starboard and to 
port, were land. Land ! The question was : 
What land ? Many argued the point until 
dawn (when the fishing sampans were gliding 
out to sea with the tide), without coming to 
a conclusion. At one hour of the morning 
the decision was that the land was none 
other than England, possibly France. But 
the wiser laughed this to scorn, saying that 
the voyage was a long one, and took more 
than a moon. It was not until daylight came 
and we were buoyed in the inner harbour, 
the coaling barges clinging to us like so 



many leeches, that the coolies knew we were 
in Japan. Little men and women in indigo 
black and blue kimonos squatted beneath 
expansive cream sails on glinting coal, shout- 
ing one to another and gesturing as the 
rudder-men guided the barges against our 
hull. No time was lost in emplacing ladders, 
and the work of coaling proceeded to the 
great amusement of the cooUes. They took 
up positions fore and aft and watched the 
little women pass on and up the ladder 
basket after basket of coal — 4000 tons odd 
of the same — loaded in less than twelve 
hours. It was strenuous, high-pressure work. 
It was pleasant — nay, something finer than 
that, luxurious perhaps — to sit on the 
boat deck with back propped against an 
emergency-raft, smoking a cigarette or nib- 
bling at a leek, while little men and women 
sweated away — was it not for their sakes ? 
Why, they had almost forgotten how to do 
a spell of work. They had not had a spade 
or a rake or a hoe or barrow handles in their 
hands for a moon or two. There was a cer- 
tain amount of labour to do on board : clean- 
ing and patroUing, but that only fell on un- 
lucky heads, It was not general. Life was 


not a bad thing. In a vain mood, they 
wished their poor dear relations at home 
could see them lazing away existence. To 
some came the thought, like a distant peal 
of thunder, that all this travelling was to 
get somewhere just in order to work ; but 
simultaneously on this parched conception 
fell a fine rain of ideas springing from the 
hope that with work in Whiteman's Land 
would come riches and honour. 

I went ashore after tiffin. Members of 
my company foregathered at the gangway 
and, after their manner, gave me a hearty 
send-off, anxiously inquiring what time I 
would return, if, indeed, I was not going to 
desert them. I might have been the pro- 
lific father of them for all their solicitude. 
I observe that the farther they get from 
friends and country the tighter they chng 
to their Commander. Like a child crossing 
a number of streets, each more crowded 
than the other, their grip on the arm tightens 
and tightens until it becomes the pressure 
of utter reliance. 

We left Nagasaki at 6 a.m., the lights 
of the town, terraced among the hills, still 
burning and now glinting through the faint 


blue mist of the morning. There was not 
an inch to spare on the forecastle deck for 
the crowd of coolies. Few words passed 
between them. They leant against one 
another for warmth and silently watched our 
departure, watched the silhouetting of the 
cedared hills against the yet invisible sun, 
watched the sea-gulls wheeling expectantly 
over us. The intense beauty of the morning 
quieted and charmed them unawares. And 
the scent in the air, of camelUa and sandal- 
wood, perhaps, made them breathe deep and 
feel satisfied with life, they knew not why. 
Never a coolie knew the cause of his con- 
tentment : beauty and the magic of aroma 
charmed them in secret. They were cheery 
too. Plumb the depths of their simple 
smooth minds and maybe they would tell 
you why. One stage of the journey was 
complete. They had arrived at and left a 
foreign port. It mattered not where the 
port was or who the people thereof. They 
were getting on with the voyage. 

If this idea was present with the coolies, 
it was present a thousand times more 
vividly with the officers. And it is high 
time I said something of the latter. Of 


those that I have casually mentioned in this 
diary only Clarison, Hackenschmidt and 
Branch are aboard. The latter, who is a 
linguist, has been in great demand, acting 
interpreter-in-chief, busy from dawn to dusk 
explaining to the sanitary squad their duties, 
ditto to the police. I envy him his eloquence, 
particularly when it comes to regulating 
sanitation. The power of example may be 
greater than that of precept. But it is not 
so clean and nice. An officer ignorant of 
the lingo is thrown back on physical illustra- 
tion : that is, he must go down on his hands 
and knees before his gangers, pick up orange 
peel and peanut shells, and mop up that 
which cannot be picked up, in order to illus- 
trate how to keep clean the floor of the 'tween 
decks. Having recourse to the official inter- 
preters is useless. Useless and extremely 
annoying. Not only do these young men 
delight in misunderstanding, but in mis- 
interpreting that which at least they but 
half understand. And apparently they think 
that once a battalion is embarked, all work 
ceases, the entire day and night being devoted 
to sleeping off an imaginary sea-sickness. 
Yes, in interpretation. Branch has found his 


level, and his cocksureness aids rather than 
hinders him in this capacity. He has, how- 
ever, talked too much. The aspirates of the 
Northern dialect have disastrously loosened 
his front teeth. The ship's doctor is going 
to extract one to-morrow. To-day he is 
laid up with toothache. It is well that the 
sanitary squad is sufficiently instructed and 
practised in its duties to carry on. 

As for Hackenschmidt, this quaint little 
non-pugiUstic Scot is our quartermaster. 

"Aye," he will tell you, "and it is no 
sinecure's job." 

Apart from looking after the officers' bag- 
gage, which is multitudinous, the quarter- 
master's time is mostly spent selling peanuts, 
cigarettes, and sugar to the coolies at an 
unconscionable profit. He has opened a 
canteen in the port galley, and tp-morrow 
opens a branch establishment in the star- 
board. The file of cooUes waiting to pur- 
chase from his canteen sometimes extends 
to half the length of the boat, quite blocking 
up the galleys, to the disgust of the ship's 
cooks, carpenters and engineers. The chief 
carpenter, it may be noted, has had to make 
him half a dozen wooden coffers in order to 


contain all the coppers he has taken : an 
impressive mass of metal which he plans 
selling to the Minister of Munitions at con- 
siderably more than face value. Hack's 
obsessing aim in life is to get rid of his stores. 

" Oh, crumbs," he says, " they're a blessed 
nuisance. I'll never be quartermaster again." 

Weak on figures, he faints before calculating 
the profit on a lakh of Rooster's or Pride of 

As for Clarison, I regret to have to record 
that that gallant gentleman will be seen no 
more for the rest of the voyage across the 
Pacific. He " went under " with scarlet 
fever a few leagues outside Nagasaki har- 
bour. He now lies, equable minded as ever, 
in the isolation hospital amidships, and there 
he will stay in unrelieved loneliness until we 
drop anchor in some Canadian port. A poor, 
most undeserved start in the great adventure 
for so gentle a man. His coolies inquire 
fondly after him. He is grieved not to be 
among them ; to manage and care for them 
at this above all times. Two officers, a 
languid sunny Scot and a lanky hollow- 
eyed graduate of Virginia University, who 
shared a cabin with him, are also temporarily 


interned. They read and sleep away the 
time in an isolated cabin labelled " Females' 
Hospital," suffering for the sins of the gentle 
Clarison. Albeit, they are not downhearted, 
being buoyed up with the conviction that 
prematurely they are being called upon to 
make the great sacrifice. They transmit 
reassuring messages to their gangers, who 
are concerned about their absence. 

Even first-class gangers, who are men of 
intelligence, believe in the infallibility of 
company commanders. They regard them 
as gods who need not sleep and know not 
sea-sickness. An officer off colour is an 
anomaly. Thus the continued absence of 
Clarison is explained away by the theory that 
either he has an inordinate amount of clerical 
work to do indoors or else he is spending 
the days and nights in prayer and fasting in 
order to humour Providence into maintaining 
a calm sea. Company commanders are well 
aware of this theory, and do all in their 
power to support it. In calm weather it is 
easy enough to give an impression of in- 
falUbility. With a heavy beam sea running, 
it is not. Sick and unsteady, the officer 
shambles along on his rounds of inspection. 


lamely acknowledging the salutes of sentries 
who have the courage to look as iU as they 
really are. With his gorge rising, he descends 
to the 'tween decks, whose atmosphere is 
nigh unbearable in the best of weather. 
Partly to save his face should he lose it, he 
soundly rates some unhappy coolie who, 
collapsed at the foot of the stairs and bent 
double, is doing the thing which above all 
things he most dreads to do — in sight of his 
men. Thickly muttering a few syllables of 
broken Chinese, which his first and second- 
class gangers pretend to understand, he 
steadies himself and signals to the attendant 
sanitary squad, now reduced to a single 
horribly yellow member, and orders that the 
man be placed in his bunk. Accompanied by 
his sergeant he proceeds to inspect the tiers 
and tiers of bunks. It is a stumble rather 
than a march by. But that doesn't matter, 
for the occupants are feeUng so sorry for 
themselves that they have neither eye nor 
inclination to criticize the steadiness of his 
gait. The sight of so many of his men lying 
under the weather gives him stimulus for 
the moment. His condition improves enough 
to allow him to act the good Samaritan 


or (if you like) the persuasive nurse. He 
bids his children buck up and go on deck 
and drink in the fresh ozone-sodden air. 
One or two six-foot-three babyish Shantung 
giants he gently pats on the head, intending 
to inspire comfort and courage. The giants 
turn over on their stomachs and groan 
abominably. Suddenly he has a fit of 
giddiness and exits hurriedly deckwards ; 
faint but fortitudinous, he gulps in the 
reviving breeze, happy at heart that he is 
still an infallible commanding officer. 


In the orderly room, which is on the port 
side not far from the canteen, are a few sacks 
of peanuts. They are kept there in reserve 
should there be an unexpected run on this 
commodity, the hold, where the bulk of the 
stores are kept, only being open at a certain 
hour of the morning. The coolies know of 
this peanut reserve. A knobby, shapeless 
sack, say they, can contain but one thing — 

It is midnight and dark and gusty on deck. 
A light to port flashes unsteadily on the 
horizon. It is all the O.K. party will see of 
Yokohama. It is the last land light they will 
see for many a night. The Pacific is ahead ; 
huge belts of grey skies and days of steady 
wind. Clearing the coast of Japan, we alter 
our course, turning northward to track the 
Great North Circle across to Vancouver. 

From the hold hatch emerges a coolie. 
He is hatless, but has wrapped around 
his shoulders his maroon waterproof. The 



orderly officer for the night would not make 
a mental note of this quite usual figure. 
But follow this unit of F Company. He 
shuffles and glides along the galley, his head 
tucked down into his shoulder to shut out 
the cold from his body. As by arrangement 
with himself, he stops before the orderly room 
and looks in through the half-opened door. 
The native sentry within is fast asleep ; he 
is Ijring on the floor with a strip of cocoa-nut 
matting under him and his mouth wide open. 
Unit of F Company is hungry ; not that he 
went to bed hungry but that he had woke 
up so. Shells of peanuts fairly littered the 
floor of the 'tween decks. Peanuts appealed 
to him irresistibly. He thought of neither 
justification nor result, but glided straight to 
his task of stealing. 

It was only a handful after all ; and there 
was already a slit as large as his fist in one of 
the sacks. Why the native sentry, who in- 
opportunely stirred from his sleep, wanted to 
make such a row over a few nuts which he 
could buy for two coppers any day in the 
canteen, Heaven only knew. It was a small 
thing. If he had attempted to get away 
with a whole sack, then he could have under- 


stood his brother dragging him before the 
foreign officer on duty. But — and this you'll 
hardly believe — the matter was magnified 
to such a degree that it became public ; public 
disgrace being meted out to him by court 
martial. For six hours unit of F Company 
stood handcuffed to a winch. About his neck 
was hung a notice which detailed his crime, 
and warned his feUows against a similar 
breach of discipline. For six hours he stood, 
the image of shame, while his brothers 
loitered about him reading with mingled fear 
and amusement the brief statement of the 

I WANT to introduce into this diary-narrative 
— because it would not be complete without — 
Julius East or Jule as we call him. Jule is in 
command of C Company. He threw up a 
good banking job in China to go home with 
the coolies. No sooner arrived in camp than 
he was shipped away with us — who had 
waited close upon two moons for our move- 
ment orders. Neither freak nor favouritism — 
simply good luck. And we did not envy 
him a jot. Indeed, we were glad to have him 
with us. We placed him against the back- 
ground of a long voyage, and found him not 

" I hope Jule goes with us," Clarison said 
to me the day before we left camp. " He's 
an amusing bird." 

That's really as good a definition as one 
can give of JuUus East. Saturate with youth 
and then dry in a literary air, and the rest 
of the portrait must rely upon his chronicled 




The second day out in the Pacific it came 
to Jule that it would be interesting to know 
what was passing in the minds of his coolies. 
He approached the matter in a pure spirit of 
learning ; he did not intend to write a book ; 
should he be asked about the thing in family 
or club circle, at home or in the East, he 
wanted to be able to answer readily and with 
originality. So, picking out the most intelli- 
gent of the interpreters, he descended to the 
'tween decks and closeted himself with his 
two sergeants. After two hours' circumlo- 
cutory cross-examination this was what he 
found out. The names of the sergeants were 
Tang Chi Chang and Sen Shin Lin. They 
were aged 27 and 26 respectively. The 
former was for three years a school teacher in 
Hanking. He had a wife who was also a 
school teacher. Together they earned (Mexi- 
can) $55 a month. Chang was a Christian 
and a graduate of Weishin University. In the 
Autumn Festival holidays he had gone home 
(near Tsingtau) where he heard of the C.L.C. 
The idea of going abroad fastened on his mind. 
The descent from a schoolmaster to a labourer 
was steep. He did not mind the degradation 
so long as he gained experience. He modestly 

ill >'» IB^ '";j^ 

A rilRT Oi-" CAI.I. ON THE I X TK k M I N A lil. E JflUi;M-;V 



suggested that his superior intellectual train- 
ing would sooner or later place him above his 
fellows. He entered camp as a coolie ; he 
was now a sergeant. He would go to France 
as a sergeant. Who knew with what honours 
might he be covered when the time came to 
go home ? He knew that the world was 
round ; also that there was a war in Europe. 
He had not thought about the ship beyond 
that it was wonderful. Neither reflection 
nor anticipation was a rule of his life. And 
such questions as concerned them belonged 
to a category of literature on which he did 
not feel qualified to speak. 

Sen Shin Lin, who perspired freely in the 
effort to express himself, his coal-black eyes 
glancing timidly from the interpreter to Jule, 
said that for the last six years he had served 
in the Chinese Army, having gone with the 
Governor of Chili on the expedition to 
Yunnan — wherefore, it is impossible to say, 
as civil wars in China are nearly as frequent 
as divorce cases in America, though not half 
so interesting to the pubhc at large. He 
lived his life in the Army, but hearing of the 
C.L.C. from a friend, thought it a better 
thing, deserting his country's service without 


a second thought. He had no forward or 
backward vision, living contentedly for the 
day. Only he wanted to be assured of one 
thing — that he was not being snaffled for the 
British Army. On which point Jule satisfied 
him by saying that he hadn't the beans to 
become a Tommy in a hundred years. As 
a matter of fact, Jule greatly admired Lin's 
energy and physique ; but it was just his way 
of reassuring. 

Jule, not satisfied with what he had got out 
of his two sergeants, chose at random one out 
of the ranks. In came a six-foot-two, mag- 
nificently built, open-mouthed hayseed, one 
Lun Zun Chong, who hailed from the province 
of Chili. Jule asked many straight questions, 
but never a satisfactory answer did he receive. 
The salient fact he gathered was that Chong 
was not a farmer by avocation notwithstand- 
ing that he lived on a farm and by a farm. 
" In other words," Jule said to himself, " a 
slacker, or, to be more polite, a sycophant." 
Lun was vague as to how he got into the 
C.L.C. " Through a friend," said the inter- 
preter. He had accepted the whole thing 
passively, just as a man accepts a cold and 
blows his nose as a matter of course. One 


inkling of thought he did manifest — a thought 
concerning his parents. He understood that 
because he was going away his relatives 
would receive money. The conception of 
separation allowance was far too complex 
for him to master. His age and stature made 
him the money-earning unit of the family ; 
although he had never considered himself as 

Now, the moral to be drawn from Jule's 
interview with three members of his com- 
pany is that nothing passes in the mind of 
a coolie, whether he be sergeant or plain 
cooUe. Nothing, that is, of a philosophic 
nature. As I concluded earlier in this 
narrative, there are certain moments when 
he is surprised by a vision of home ; cer- 
tain moments when this or that stage of 
this long journey is hung for him as a 
picture in the uncrowded academy of his 
mind, but he looks at it without amaze- 
ment just as he looked on the more vivid 
reality. He is absorbing, learning, being 
changed all the time, but he hastens not one 
of these processes by conscious assimilation. 
Whilst experiences are ceaselessly pressing 
upon him, his attitude towards existence is 


the attitude of a domesticated animal. And 
a very fine one too. 

Jule was disappointed over the result of 
his research work. He expected whimsical 
points of view, quaint definitions, intellectual 
oddities. In some shape they were there ; 
he still clung to the beUef they were get-at- 

" But not through an interpreter," he said. 
" A Frenchman, ignorant of our language, 
might as well attempt Wordsworth's trick 
with the English peasant." 

Jule looked glum in mess to-night. He 
told Branch he had decided to learn Chinese. 


Our O.C, who is a portly and omnipresent 
personage, inspecting, reviewing, criticizing, 
compromising, and encouraging all day long 
in holds, 'tween decks, galleys, forecastle and 
wherenot, has a peculiar way with coolies. 
A way, undoubtedly, successful. I suppose 
that is why he is O.C. Of course he speaks 
better Chinese than the coolies themselves. 
But that is not the quality of his " way." 
Branch also is a classic speaker ; but Branch's 
manner is brittle. The O.C.'s is elastic. It 
gives at the right moment. It saves him 
from wielding the iron fist — a method which 
in principle and practice is as repugnant to 
the coolies as it is to the Allies. 

For instance. Hurley, an Irishman, com- 
manding H Company and Superintendent 
of Police, is a thorough advocate of physical 
persuasion. He believes in blaming the 
wrong man ; and hitting him. Metaphori- 
cally speaking, he cracks peanuts with a 
steam hammer. He deals in punishments as 



Moses dealt in mercies. Granted that ex- 
pectoration is a sin against a sanitary con- 
dition of things, Hurley will magnify it into 
one of the Deadly Seven. With the Adju- 
tant's permission he has sent men to prison 
(an electric-lit monkey-house hut situate in 
the fo'c'sle 'tween decks) for less than a spit. 
He has surprised gambling parties (a popular 
social pastime in the holds), confiscated the 
coppers in use and detailed the guilty gam- 
blers to latrine fatigue — the severest allow- 
able form of degradation. 

The O.C., whilst recognizing the advan- 
tages of being thus severe, has a discipline 
system of his own. Its secret is humour. 
He makes a coolie laugh at himself, which for 
the coolie is a form of self -chastisement. 
And most efficacious. For example, he will 
point out that it is just as easy to expectorate 
into the sea as on the deck. A spittle is 
nothing once in the sea ; whereas on deck 
it may prove the undignified fall of a com- 
pany commander ; and has, in any case, to 
be removed by the expectorant. Whereupon 
the coolie will laugh, go down on his knees 
and wipe up the spittle — ^probably with a 
neck-towel. Equally entertaining instances 


could be multiplied. But just to show how 
a discipline system, humane or otherwise, 
may be nonplussed, I will give an experience 
of Jule's. 

It is ten o'clock one roughish morning in 
mid-Pacific. Foregathered in the orderly 
room are the O.C, the Adjutant, the orderly 
officer for the day, and a liverish interpreter. 
They are awaiting the arrival of the chief 
mate, in whose company the above distin- 
guished gentlemen make a daily tour of 
inspection. This is a function carried out 
with all the solemnity befitting its importance. 
Its object is to inspect the labours of a seasick 
sanitary squad and to see that the stringers 
and uprights supporting coolies' bunks have 
not unduly warped during the night. In a 
blow the other night these wooden structures 
bulged and swayed with what might have 
been fatal results had not a corporal who 
found himself ignominiously lying on top of 
a cooHe, having fallen through from the bunk 
above, reported the matter to his company 
commander. The latter, a man of action 
and not being sure of the rites of burial-at- 
sea, descended to the hold and, after a hasty 
inspection, condemned as dangerous no less 


than two hundred bunks, and made the 
occupants sleep on the floor. Not that the 
floor was a whit less comfortable, but that, 
being the floor of a lower hold, it exposed 
the tenants to an erratic overhead fire 
(through a lattice ceiling) of peanut shells, 
orange peel, rice in various stages of cooking, 

But to return to the daily inspection. The 
party, now complete, moves off, headed by 
the O.C., who lights a large cheroot as much 
from habit (whenever a C.L.C. O.C. officiates 
outside France he always smokes) as to show 
4200 coolies that whereas smoking is strictly 
prohibited in the holds and 'tween decks the 
O.C. is a privileged person. It may be 
secretly divulged that as many of the com- 
pany commanders who can, do smoke. 
Since we left Nagasaki smoking has not been 
popular. In any case, company commanders 
do not smoke while the O.C. is on tour of 
inspection, though they have been known to 
hold the hot end of a cheroot under the palm 
of the hand. The whiff of the O.C.'s cheroot 
is well known in Hold A, whither the party 
has descended, and there is significant move- 
ment in a knot of seasick coolies, some 


escaping up the hatch, some wrapping their 
heads in their blankets, until the O.C. and 
the cloud he obscures himself in, are well 
past. In the comparative darkness of Hold B, 
which is under Hold A, stands Jule earnestly 
exhorting his sanitary squad to make cleanli- 
ness more clean and then to sweep up again. 

"Not so dusty," said the O.C. as he 
flashed an electric torch on a floor which 
might have been mistaken for the top of a 
billiard-table just before the felt is laid on. 

Jule didn't think so either ; and he was 
particularly proud of the absence of spitting, 
which he had practically abolished through 
rigorous discipline. Around stand a score of 
coolies, awed by the almost ambassadorial 
dignity of the visitors. The sanitary squad 
lean on their brooms ; the police tuck their 
truncheons under the arm. Gangers of all 
classes stand at attention. It is an impres- 
sive moment. The O.C. now turns to the 
chief mate and asks his opinion on the 
matter. That able and charming seaman, 
undesirous of venturing an opinion lightly 
in such weighty circumstances, hesitates, 
clears his throat, and says : 

" Ay, not so dusty." Upon which, as if 


to prove to all present that despite this 
public utterance he is still quite at his ease, 
clears his throat raucously and — ^whether or 
not in a lapse of thought it is impossible to 
say — expectorates on Jule's incomparable 

Coolies, gangers, police, sanitary squad look 
fearfully from the expectorant to Jule. Many 
tremble for the fate of the chief mate at the 
hands of their company commander. But, 
though Jule glares, nothing happens. So 
they begin to see the joke and laugh, just as 
hayseeds of all countries do, venting loud 
open-air guffaws. He cannot make himself 
heard to call them to attention. The work of 
a week is gone to the dickens. 


Joe, the ship's carpenter, was busy one 
morning erecting and strengthening bunks 
that had fallen in the night. Holds I and J 
had suffered most. The matter was brought 
to the attention of the chief mate by Mam- 
mon, an American, one of our conducting 
officers. It may be explained that a con- 
ducting officer is a man — usually an 
American — who does not intend to stay with 
us in France. His connection with the 
C.L.C. ceases when he lands his company 
there. He is looked upon as a passing show. 
By some as an intruder. He wields a little 
brief authority — and disappears. He has 
been likened to a bus-driver. His interest 
in the cooUes ceasing with the end of the 
journey, it is difficult, not to say impossible, 
for him to cultivate the paternity attitude 
which distinguishes the genuine C.L.C. officer. 
He may be an excellent ofl&cer, as Mammon 
is ; but he is not a father. Nor, conscientious 
as he may be, do the coolies become children 



to him. They are so many passengers who 
must be conveyed safely from a point in the 
Eastern Hemisphere to a point in the Western. 
As a rule he does not study their language or 
their ways. What is passing in their minds is 
nothing to him. But for all that he is a care- 
ful driver, a meticulous disciphnarian. 

Imagine, therefore. Mammon making a 
verbal report to the chief mate. 

" It's a wonder my company weren't killed 
in their sleep last night. Can't you fix these 
berths so the rolling don't make no differ- 
ence ? " 

The chief mate nods and says he'll see what 
can be done. Two whistles bring the quarter- 
master ; and the quartermaster, duly in- 
structed, brings Joe. Joe, duly instructed, 
descends to Holds I and J. En route he 
ventures to Mammon : 

" I reckon an official report ought to be 
made about this thing, I could have made 
a better job of it myself." 

Joe is, of course, ship's carpenter and not a 
bed builder for the C.L.C. Arrived in Hold I 
Joe is the centre of lively attention. He 
carries a saw under one arm, a plumber 
under the other, and a couple of planks in 


each hand. He wears the customary blue- 
black overalls and shaggy mud-guard mous- 
tache. Behind him follows his assistant, a 
miserable knock-kneed Cantonese. The 
coolies have never before seen anyone like 
Joe. They cannot place him. He is too 
shabby and workaday-looking to be a com- 
pany commander ; too skilful with his saw 
(as they soon see) to be a foreigner. So 
they ingeniously conclude he is a Chinaman 
in disguise. The fact that his lingo does not 
seem to be immediately intelHgible to Mam- 
mon, their CO., confirms them in this 
opinion. Joe is saying, with a wink : 

" First thing a mechanician does is to light 
'is pipe." 

This operation is admiringly followed by 
gangers of all classes. The circle widens 
around Joe as his pipe gets under way. A 
lance-corporal, overcome by direct fire, dives 
for the deck. Next, the carpenter, addressing 
his assistant as Flanagan, instructs the 
latter to climb up into the top tier of bunks 
and investigate the trouble. 

" Walkee too much," presently cries Flan- 
agan ; which is pidgin-English for : " The 
supports have given considerably." 


" 'Ammer them back," Joe decides. 

But the supports are bearing the weight 
of an odd thirty human bodies. (The vast 
majority of coolies are bed-ridden on board.) 
To which fact Flanagan discreetly draws 
attention. Joe concurs. 

" Get the out of it," he shouts to two 

recumbent sections of I Company, ignoring or 
else being ignorant of the truism that large 
bodies of men are most easily handled in a 
polite and orderly manner— Shantung farmers 
not excepted. Or, as a third possibility, Joe's 
injunction may have been a subtle but poig- 
nant allusion to the non-intimacy of con- 
ducting officers with their companies. Which- 
ever, Joe supports his order by brandishing 
his saw before the face of a slumbering 
coolie. Sections 12 and 13 of I Company, 
fearing for the life of a comrade, tumble 
pell-mell out of their bunks, trailing water- 
proofs, knapsacks, water-bottles, and dis- 
hevelled blankets behind them. 

A parenthesis is necessary here to state 
that whenever and wherever cooUes turn or 
are turned out, they do so in full marching 
order. This is one of the closest relations 
they bear to the men in the trenches. The 


reason is not preparedness for action, but 
a precaution against exchange of equipment. 
That is, a coolie is never satisfied with one 
of everything that he should have. If he 
can appropriate an extra water-bottle he 
will, and he will manage successfully to con- 
ceal the spare one on his person when on 
parade. Two blankets are easily made to 
look like one ; two caps, two waterproofs 
are easily worn. On the principle that two 
wrongs make a right, a coolie is no sooner 
stolen from than he himself steals. Coolies' 
equipment is in constant circulation. A 
single waterproof may keep thirty backs dry 
in as many rainy days. Against this the 
outfitting department in China have thought- 
fully provided by making all equipments of 
a standard size. 

To Joe the cooUes are theoretically as the 
dust under his feet. But the fact that the 
"yellow 'eathens are 'elping out in France" 
somewhat redeems them in his sight, and he 
treats them with jovial respect. 

" 'E's a smart Alec," he says to Mammon 
as a coolie rests a board on the edge of a 
bunk for Joe to stand on and hammer at the 
support. And, between spurts of hammering. 


the carpenter carries on a conversation with 
his admiring audience in a lingo, which, 
though quite unintelligible to Mammon, is 
exquisitely humorous to them. 

No one who knows the coolie will deny him 
a sense of humour. It enables him to over- 
ride with uncanny cheerfulness the petty 
annoyances of life. Even he sees fun in being 
cussed by Joe and glared at by Flanagan. 
Mammon stands by uninterested. 


JuLE paraded his lance-corporals for life-belt 
drill. The life-belts on board are not of the 
conventional rubber-tyre type, but' canvas- 
covered slabs of cork. They have been 
employed as pillows by aU ranks. The 
strings, which attach the belts to the body, 
being considered an unnecessary adjunct to 
a pillow, have been removed and used for 
various purposes — sock - suspenders and 
trouser-binders, the chief. The belts them- 
selves have given considerable trouble. Not 
only is there great diversity of opinion in 
regard to how they should be worn, but many, 
owing to their stringlessness, are not wear- 
able at all. An inspection of the same proved 
to Jule that the Chinese are capable of eating 
cork, the canvas having been slit and chunks 
nibbled out of more than one belt. It is 
possible they were taken for biscuits of a 
foreign and particularly filling kind. 

The Chinese are inventive as well as 
adaptive. For example, novel use is made of 



the boiling water which bubbles from the 
cylinder boxes of the winches. It is drunk, 
the admixture of lubricating oil, unavoid- 
able when water is drawn from so ready a 
fount, being found to give the drink a piquant 
flavour. More naturally and, we should say, 
less harmfully, the scupper hydrants, which 
are used to scour the deck, are tapped and 
sea-water drawn to wash the face, tin plates 
and cups, and garments indiscriminately. 
It is noticed, however, and reported despair- 
ingly by the engineer members of the Can- 
tonese crew that cocks, nuts, washers, taps, 
and other parts detachable from said hydrants 
mysteriously disappear. A search in the 
holds has more than once revealed the miss- 
ing accessories fastidiously wrapped in paper 
and tucked away in the crowded corner 
of some cooUe's kit-bag. It is speculative 
whether the Chinese antecede the Americans 
in their passion for memorial curios. 

Other parts of the ship are put to ingenious 
use. Thus, the breakwater on the fo'c'sle 
deck serves successfully to camouflage gam- 
bling parties. Gambling on board (dicing, 
coin-tossing and an Asiatic card game akin 
to a mild form of poker) is strictly forbidden ; 


because gambling so often leads to physical 
argument, suppression of which would in- 
ordinately engage the attention of the orderly 
officer on duty. 

The entrance to the officers' galley is em- 
ployed as a radiator to revive heat in the 
bone-chilled coolie as well as serving to whet 
his appetite with whiffs of foreign ' chow ' a- 

Not an integral part of a ship but usually 
found on board, the tin basin (which a coolie 
finds in his kit-bag) is put to a multitude of 
uses, among which the most practical are : 
a receptacle to save the sanitary squad un- 
necessary work ; a receptacle in which to 
wash the body and socks ; a receptacle in 
which to carry away from the galley a 
quantity over and above his due portion of 
rice ; a drum. 


The secret of maintaining peace and satis- 
faction among some 4000 coolies on a long 
trans-Pacific voyage is to endow for them 
each day with interest. On rough days this 
necessity is annulled. To-day, being fine 
and fairly calm, it was deemed advisable to 
spring a surprise. This took the shape of a 
sale of musical instruments. A prodigious 
quantity of two-stringed fiddles, flutes, and 
mandolins were unearthed from the hold by 
the quartermaster and sold, at something just 
above cost, to a prodigious number of instru- 
mentalists. It astounded Jule, in this con- 
nexion, that there were no less than thirty 
fiddlers in his company. Those skilful with 
the reed abounded in Branch's company. 
The mandolins did not meet with equal 
demand, not only because that instrument 
is comparatively rare in China, but because 
they went at double the price of a fiddle. 
The price of a fiddle was sixty coppers ; the 
price of a flute was forty coppers. This is a 



gigantic sum for any individual coolie to 
spend on an article which does not come 
under the head of canteen. So it was found 
expedient, by more than one fair-minded 
officer, to exact from each and every coolie 
the sum of two coppers against the cost of 
the battalion's instruments. A description 
of these noise-pro vokers may be of interest. 

The fiddle looks like an enormous clay pipe, 
with a very thin stem and a very fat bowl. 
The aperture of the latter is bridged and 
two strings are extended from the bridge to 
a cross-beam on the top of the stem. When 
played the instrument is held bowl down- 
wards on the knee ; and if feelingly played 
is capable of producing extreme melancholia 
and nostalgia in the coolie. 

The flute is neither more nor less than a 
thin bamboo pole, about a yard long, with 
holes punched at regular intervals. Deft 
piping excites the coolie to dance or to the 
deep enjoyment of a "Pride of China" 

The mandolin is a hollow bread board, to 
which is attached a fantastically - shaped 
neck, from the top of which strings sag, like 
wires between telegraph poles, to the middle 


of the board. As previously stated, this is 
not a popular instrument. It is enjoyed by 
the select — in secret, as a rule. 

Soon after noon (when the sale began) to 
well past midnight the holds and 'tween decks 
vibrated with the tuning-up efforts of coolie 
musicians. It reminded Jule (who has been 
an exile in China for some years) of nothing so 
much as the chaos of sound produced by a 
symphony orchestra just previous to the 
execution of the first movement of, say, 
Beethoven's Ninth. 

The formation of a picked band of instru- 
mentalists is suggested in mess. If Tommies 
march to the beat of fife and drum, why not 
coolies to the shriek of fiddle and flute ? 


Meridian day is notable chiefly because it is 
not a day at all. It is an undatable spell 
of twenty-four hours which we live through 
in order that we may not be a day ahead of 
the Gregorian Calendar when we arrive in 
Canada. The Paymaster does not make 
allowances for this phenomenon of time. For 
once we have given our services free to the 

It is worth chronicling here that ever since 
we began to go east and steal night marches on 
time, the mess-room clock has raced, gaining 
on our watches from nineteen to forty minutes 
a day. The officers have corrected their 
time-pieces at midday, mutely accepting 
this mystery. The matter has, however, 
caused no little astonishment among watch- 
owning coolies, who ask for an explanation. 
Needless to say, they do not get one, inas- 
much as the Captain, who is the only man 
perfectly clear on the matter, does not speak 


It would be as well if this time-mystery 
could be solved once and for all, as it aUows 
N.C.O.'s to parade their men for morning 
drill legitimately late. 


Our medico states that you can knock the 
stuffing but not the superstition out of a 
coohe. Before the days of Rockefeller- 
endowed medical colleges it was a common 
belief in China (still current apparently 
among Shantung farmers) that diseases were 
evil winds within the body. Let the wind 
escape and the patient was cured. Nothing 
could be easier. 

So thought Li Pao Hsiang (coolie, A Com- 
pany) as he sat in Bunk 45, Hold B, making 
pinpricks at equal distances in the forehead 
of his prostrate lance-corporal. He had made 
rather a mess of things, as our Blue Funnel 
freighter was, at the time, making a fuss over 
a heavy beam sea. A dip to port or starboard 
would cause Li Pao Hsiang to puncture his 
patient's face deeper than he intended. The 
result was a somewhat gruesome sight for our 
medico, who (excellent temperament ! ) was 
visiting rounds on behalf of an officer tem- 



porarily incapacitated by the aforesaid heavy 
beam sea. 

Unless a medico is keen on the still small 
hours of the night, keen on having the twenty- 
four hours artificially divided into five, seven, 
and twelve-hour watches, he does not dis- 
charge the shipboard duties of an orderly 
officer. Without keeping coolies in order he 
is sufficiently occupied keeping them in 
health. Four-fifths of his time is devoted to 
convincing seasick coolies that they are not 
in danger of death. Many are afflicted with 
imaginary maladies. For example, a great 
song is made over a swollen arm, as the result 
of scratching vaccination scabs. Observation 
is daily demanded on this score. Sick leave 
is requested for the same — but never given. 

Occasionally our medico has a surgical job 
to perform. In a fit of absent-mindedness a 
coolie may elect to fall four stories of bunks 
and land more or less heavily on a steel-plate 
floor. Anyone but a coolie would, of course, 
be instantly killed. That man of " ardours 
and endurances " suffers nothing more than 
the fracture of some insignificant bone. But 
it may be noted (perhaps to his credit) that 
for the setting of this bone he will have to be 


dragged to hospital. Not that he is a coward, 
but that maladies which really merit atten- 
tion he would himself nurse in secret. He 
will cry like an infant over a cut. If he has 
received a compound fracture of some limb 
he will inform nobody and slink to the seclu- 
sion of his own bed. 

As Li Pao Hsiang's patient had nothing 
more serious than a headache he was rousing 
the world over it, and when our medico enters 
on the scene you may picture half a company 
of coolies concerned in his cure. A Chinese 
loves publicity of a mild nature, and you may 
be sure Li was making the most of the occasion. 

" Letting the evil winds escape," he said 
in reply to our medico's inquiry in regard 
to the dubious operation. " One must be 
very careful," the quack explained, " where 
the escape-holes are made. The wind is con- 
tained in certain pockets. One must not 
prick the brain." 

Lucky for Li, our medico is possessed not 
only of a sense of humour, but of an excellent 
knowledge of the Chinese. Wherefore the 
quack went unpunished but not upbraided. 
And his patient was carried off and a dose of 
prosaic fruit salts administered to him. 


Our long Pacific voyage draws to a close. 
In two days we are due at a Canadian port. 
Already we prepare for disembarkation. 

The arts of shaving and hair-cutting are 
being practised daily and continually in the 
holds. Each company chooses its own 
barbers, a class of men which abounds in the 
battalion. Given the necessary razors and 
clippers, a company proceeds to elect a score 
of barbers. On an average five are appointed 
to cut the hair and fifteen to shave. The 
appointments are carefully made, for not 
merely the good looks but the lives of the 
rank-and-file are entrusted to the chosen 
ones. Appointments of this kind are seldom 
if ever revoked. A coolie places his fate unre- 
servedly in the hands of the elected barber. 
Even with the ship switchbacking up and 
down gigantic Pacific swells he doesn't fear 
to have his head and beard shaved. Chairs 
being unknown outside the officers' mess, 
operator and victim squat down facing one 

i6o ' 


another, the former holding the latter's head 
firmly between his knees as he scythes down 
the black stiff upright crop of two months' 
growth. The shave is very close, leaving the 
head bald and smooth as an ostrich's egg. 

A quorum of officers agree that this process 
vastly improves the looks of a coolie, not- 
withstanding that some, Hke Jule, are of the 
opinion that a coolie, in his shaven state, 
distressingly resembles a Hun. The quarter- 
master, who is genuinely attached to the 
Chinese as a people, waxed wroth over What 
he called " this odious comparison." 

" Not the sHghtest resemblance," he cried. 
" Have you ever seen a Chinese with any- 
thing hke a square head ? Square-headedness 
is the mark of the beast, not a bald pate ! " 

Socks and other washable garments are be- 
ing feverishly scoured. Whatever its fore- 
runners have done, the O.K. party is deter- 
mined to present a clean, neat, soldier-like 
appearance to Canada. Under British officer- 
ship, the Chinese are marching, clean and 
straight and strong, to their job of work in 

To the individual labourer it is, of course, 
something more than active (though non- 


combative) participation in the war. It is a 
going forth into the world, a pilgrimage to 
most distant places. It is travel through 
and sojourn in the lands of the White Man. 



Canada was on the lips of many coolies 
before we landed. It meant to them 
(so their officers had told them) the land 
of the White Man, a land which flowed 
with milk and honey, where no poverty 
was, no disobedience, and therefore no 
punishment ; which few of them had seen 
and which they were highly privileged in 
seeing. Certainly from the decks, whither 
the unaccustomed calmness had attracted 
them, it appeared a land of promise. Snow- 
capped mountains on one side of a strait 
whose waters glistened in the morning sun, 
waters dotted with derelict logs on which 
sea-gulls perched foolishly at attention ; on 
the other, richly-wooded hills which trailed 
their blue and emerald skirts in the sea. 
Hills of the Western world. Here and there 
a mist, individual, rising probably from some 
frog-haunted marsh. Those who had stuck 
doggedly in their dingy beds the voyage long, 



came up on deck to be flooded in sunshine 
and to scent the strong perfume of the 
Douglas pine. It was new to them and 
acceptable. Acceptable, I say, because their 
natures did not allow them to go out and 
meet the thing at sight. Stolidly, faintly 
glowing with excitement, they awaited the 
evening. The chief thing was, it was not 
China. Some inquired if it were England ; 
if they were at their journey's end. They did 
not know any better. How should they ? 
Even if it had been explained, they would 
not have understood. Inter-continental dis- 
tances were inconceivable. The earth in her 
immensity was ungraspable. 

So, when these simple farmers, carpenters, 
brickmakers, dressers, weavers, brass-smiths, 
blacksmiths, bakers, bricklayers, ex-soldiers 
and stonemasons landed in Canada in the 
same good order wherewith they had em- 
barked in their native land, they took thought 
not for the country they were in, but when 
they would get their next meal. If ever men 
marched on their stomachs, it was the rank 
and file of the C.L.C. 

They were shortly to feel in novel circum- 
stances. Hitherto rations had been cooked 




for them. Now they were to forage for them- 
selves. They were in camp — a camp run on 
military lines ; which necessitated, as soon 
as might be, the appointment of company 
cooks. This was a simple matter, for every 
coolie is a potential cook. But, as company 
officers were later to learn, not every cook 
makes a company cook. For example, a 
carpenter might know how to boil rice, but 
probably only an ex-soldier would know how 
to keep order in the kitchen. The latter 
function, in the eyes of a company com- 
mander, is more important than the former. 
This, by the way. The thing on arrival in 
camp was to make a start. 

So, out of an odd four thousand volunteers, 
sixty were chosen. In four hectic hours, 
during which company commanders taught 
their men the art of stoking boiler-fires (the 
rice being boiled in huge caldrons), the first 
meal was ready. It was eaten under canvas, 
fifteen men being quartered in a tent. Men 
had only to stick their heads out of the tent 
to see the arbutus with its beautiful flesh- 
tinted bark, to see pine-clad hills, the Pacific 
blue as the very sky, the Rockies trailing 
their snowy ridges into the distance. 


This was the beginning of ten weeks in 
Canada. One day was much like another. 
Nothing extraordinary ever happened. Life 
was simple and sunny. If they went out of 
camp, it was to march along wonderful new- 
world roads. If they had any work to do, it 
was to split wood and carry it to the kitchens. 
Their anxious breaking-in days were over. 
They saw little of their officers. To-morrow 
was always the day of departure and to- 
morrow always came and they were still in 
camp. They didn't worry. Indeed, why 
should they ? Their lives were comfortably 
framed. A single night and they were used 
to sleep under canvas. Two days and they 
had learnt how to keep their camp lines 
clean. They had enough to eat. Daily a 
lorry thundered into camp and brought them 
rice ; the ration boat daily made port from 
some Harbour of Plenty and brought them 
whole sides of beef and sacks of vegetables. 

1 68 


They cooked for themselves and were satis- 

A few new people came into their lives. 
The colonel, for one. Of whom, as affecting 
them, more is written below. Also they 
came into touch with soldiers who unarmed 
stood at the entrances to camp or sat on the 
rocks in front of the kitchen and watched 
them go about their business. They didn't 
understand who these men were or what they 
were about. The white soldiers neither 
helped nor hindered them. They seemed to 
be as negative a part of camp as the boundary 
fences. They found they could joke with 
them without reproof ; examine their uni- 
forms ; hold their hands and chatter ; play 
ball with them. So that when the Canadian 
sentries wanted something done, they were 
simply laughed at or had pebbles playfully 
thrown at them. Altogether the white 
soldiers were tame jolly chaps. Obviously 
they were there not to be obeyed but for a 

Sometimes parties of foreigners would visit 
the camp lines and observe them in their 
tents. They hked to be a centre of interest. 
They liked to have their wristlets examined ; 


to see foreigners pointing at them as though 
they were remarkable ; to reveal the contents 
of their kit-bags for curious observation. 
On such occasions the musicians, tumblers 
and jugglers among them would be picked 
out and made to perform. To a tea-drinking 
audience they would scrape their fiddles and 
screech their native songs ; do cart-wheels 
and stand on their heads ; swallow stones 
and pierce their tongues with a meat skewer. 
The reward for which would be applause 
and a cigarette or two for each performer. 
It was better than drilling and quite as 
amusing as doing nothing at all. 

After a week in camp a ripple of excite- 
ment was caused by the arrival of a battalion 
of brothers. It cheered them to see so many 
of their kind engaged in the same adventure. 
They were disappointed when the new batta- 
lion moved out of sight and camped on a 
neighbouring hill. They had hoped to get 
news of this and that village in Shantung. 
Nine weeks later, however, both battalions 
were to continue the Interminable Journey 
on the same transport. Wherefore, for 
identification purposes, our men called them- 
selves West of the Mountain men, alluding 


to the newly arrived as East of the Moun- 
tain men. 

A friendly and fruitful rivalry sprang up 
between the two battalions. They vied with 
one another in keeping their camp lines 
clean. The police washed their khaki uni- 
forms until they were white. The sergeants 
drilled their men after official parade. For 
all that they saw little of one another for, 
shortly after their arrival, an epidemic of 
mumps spread among East of the Moun- 
tain men and they were not allowed to come 
in contact with their rivals. 

Shortly after this a disaster (it can be 
called nothing less) overtook "O.K." party. 
It was split in two. Transport facilities 
became available for five companies which 
were trained across the continent. The 
conducting officers and Branch went with 
this lot. Jule istayed behind and was ap- 
pointed adjutant of the remnant of the 
party. Behold that enthusiastic officer bid- 
ding sorrowful adieu to his company. He 
was attached to his men ; he even loved 
them. He loved them because they were 
like children in their simplicity ; because 
they did their best nine times out of ten ; 


because they always met him with a smile. 
The tears came into his eyes as, one bright 
March morning, they trudged out of camp, 
with their packs on their backs, happy as 
schoolboys setting out on a holiday. They 
saluted him as they passed, some crying out 
a word of salutation ; others imitating the 
way he would give a command. And Jule 
stood wondering when he would see his 
Christian sergeant again and what would be 
his lot in France ; and for the moment he 
threw his mind forward and pictured the 
day when all these magnificent men would 
return to China and import a new spirit, 
which would quicken and strengthen them 
for the part they were to play in the re- 
building of the world after the war. 


They knew him not as the Colonel but as 
the king. He was the most impressive 
person they had ever seen. He did not often 
come among them. The rarity of his pres- 
ence made him the more impressive. When 
he came it was not on foot but mounted on 
a spirited horse. Up and down their camp 
lines he would canter, seated boldly upright 
in his saddle. A kingly figure. Or, return- 
ing from a cross-country ride, he would 
gallop across the parade ground, raising a 
cloud of dust, regally regardless of them. 
After all, of what account were they to be 
noticed ? Even company commanders these 
days didn't have much to do with them. If 
they had a " strafe " it was with their ser- 
geants and corporals. Did these influentials 
not satisfy them they would carry their case 
to the interpreter who would settle the 
matter for them with their commander. 
They imagined that if the latter found it 
impossible to decide upon the point, the 



king would decide for them. But, above all, 
he would not be needlessly troubled. The 
affair, duly docketed, might well be pigeon- 
holed for days, awaiting supreme settle- 

He was too royal to speak to them^but 
right royally he acknowledged their salutes. 
And suck a salute he gave. No company 
commander saluted so smartly. There was 
something gracious about him ; he held 
aloof ; yet there was something intimate in 
the way he smiled when saluting. He did 
not come near enough to be recognized with 
love. He had not journeyed and suffered 
(privation) with them as had their company 
commander. They knew nothing of him 
save that he looked jolly on horseback and 
fit to be the king he was. Yet they were 
endeared to him, some through respect and 
some through fear. Somehow they felt that 
he was responsible for their lives ; that he 
would take care of them and see that the 
ration boat turned up regularly ; that he 
would check their family allotments. 

It interested them to know that there was 
some one greater in the world than a com- 
pany commander. The O.C. " O.K." party 


was in charge. That they knew by the 
whirlwind manner in which he occasionally 
descended upon camp and caused drastic 
changes. And, to be sure, he was now more 
deeply feared because he so seldom came 
among them. Notwithstanding, he appeared 
to be on quite intimate terms with the 
company commanders ; almost " one of 
them." Whereas the Colonel rode into camp 
quite alone ; sometimes, however, accom- 
panied by his adjutant whom they took to 
be his equerry. And, if he stopped to talk 
with company commanders, the latter would 
stand rigidly at attention, just as they them- 
selves had been taught to stand when on 
parade. Altogether he was somebody very 
splendid and exceptional. 

As for the Colonel, he did not at first 
relish the idea of commanding a coohe 
camp. It didn't sound inviting. But in 
time he learnt — as he now taught others to 
do — to weave a new web of ideas around the 
word "coolie." Instead of recoiling from 
contact with them, he grew to like them and 
then to nurture a fondness for them. They 
were such jolly peaceable fellows. Tliey 
responded with obedience to fair and square 


treatment. They were as simple as children 
and as lovable in their artlessness. Like 
children they would go desperately far if 
one gave them rein enough. But one didn't. 
He ran his camp strictly. He gathered 
notions from company commanders in regard 
to " running the coolies " and added his 
own. Pretty soon he began to see that the 
common conception of a coolie was mythical. 
The coolie had no more treachery, no more 
beastliness, no more mental sterility in him 
than the peasant of Europe. In many ways 
he was a better fellow. His good temper and 
good humour were priceless. Besides, he 
could work like the devil if put to it. 

Plunging a little deeper into the question 
the Colonel perceived that the Oriental was 
almost an ideal man to have in camp. 
Especially if he had to be confined to camp 
over a long period. Unlike the white soldier, 
he did not fret for the world. Cinemas, 
gaily -lit streets, shop windows, wine and 
women were nothing to him because they 
only came obliquely into his vision. He 
was content with his very simple life. He 
was content so long as he was decently 


It amused the Colonel to watch the coolies 
in their off-duty moments. How they sat on 
the rocks, still as statues, gazing out to sea ; 
how they lay in their tents bowing pensively 
on their native fiddles ; how others, of a 
more industrious spirit, pencilled out dragon 
and temple and fantastically bordered pat- 
terns on the ground ; how others would sit 
under trees, like old women, patiently stitch- 
ing up a torn tunic ; how others would 
wander about idly, welcoming him with a 
smile or with an awkward salute as he 
passed by. 

They showed him, too, that they could 
work. They pleased him in little ways, 
though to be sure, they never set out to 
please him. He saw that there was good 
stuff in them. His fondness for them grew 
out of not merely the way in which they kept 
their camp lines but their likeness to chil- 
dren. He liked to jump on his horse of a 
morning and canter by their ranks. A sea 
of bronzed faces would upturn and smile 
at him as he rode by. They would murmur 
to one another but, notwithstanding he knew 
nothing of Chinese, he was sure there was no 
malice in their murmur. If he spent the 


day without this greeting he felt there was 
something missing. 

He had no idea that he was a king to them, 
but he often saw in them a race of Uttle 


One April day Spring rushed into being. 
The wind of Winter died down. There was 
still a breath of coldness on the air, but it 
came (as it came the year round) from 
eternal snows not so distant. We found the 
way of our route-marches in the shadow of 
the leaves. The scent of the Douglas pine 
hung drowsy in the air. The arbutus spread 
her naked arms over the roadside. The bay 
and the open sea beyond were never so calm 
and so blue. 

It was too inviting not to go out and 
march. It was too beautiful not to show the 
coolies. So off we went, soon after roll-call. 
They were as keen to go, these coolies, as 
their ofl&cers. They showed their delight by 
a filood-tide of smiles. They would have 
leapt, could they have done so and kept in 
step. As it was, they chattered merrily and 
were promptly called to order by their 

Intoxicated by the morning they swung 


along the Canadian road. They had never 
seen such foliage in their lives ; never so 
many trees together ; never such a clear sky 
and blue sea. Subconsciously they com- 
pared this distinct and colour-shot radiance 
with the monotone greys and browns of 
their native land. The light green of the 
maples and wild plum and cherry trees 
looked beautiful against the dark green of 
the firs and spruces. The road was bordered 
with wild sunflowers and bluebells. Wheat 
and oats, shooting their delicate blades 
through the dark earth, they mistook for 
rice. They could not understand how these 
rich clearings yielded as they did, for they 
never saw men and women working in the 
fields. Yet there must be people, they 
thought. And if there were people why had 
they left untouched these riches of the 
forest ? There were trees in glorious abun- 
dance, but no one to cut them down. Alto- 
gether it seemed a neglected land. The 
few people they did see rushed past them in 
motor-cars ; or walked up and down dale as 
though they had nothing to do. 

Cows, with their udders full to over- 
flowing, tore at the roadside grass. Now and 


again a chicken would shelter her squeaking 
brood from the feet of so many men. Dogs 
barked at the approach of the grey masses. 

It was all very queer and jolly. It was 
Canada. And that had to explain all. 

About three miles from camp is a broad 
beach, shaped like a horse-shoe, whereon 
every incoming tide deposits a quantity of 
drift-wood ; mostly great pine logs which, 
in tow towards some lumber-miU, break away 
and become derelict to be washed up on 
some unfrequented shore. This beach pro- 
vided our fire-wood. Daily a company of 
coolies marched thither and brought back 
enough fuel for the day. That was one of 
their few jobs in camp. No provision for 
labour was made in Canada. Advantage was 
not taken of thousands of willing hands to 
improve the roads, to clear the land and to 
farm. The coolies could have done so much 
during this long wait for transportation. 
But the pros and cons of the question are by 
the way. Enough that labour was unthink- 
able that spring morning we marched to the 

The tide was well out. The company 
formed up on a broad expanse of greyish 


golden sand. The sea took light from the 
sun and threw it back in starry blue. The 
warm day suggested a swim to the officer in 
command. He did not indulge the idea for 
himself but thought of the coolies. A plunge 
would do them good. So, through the 
interpreter, he called for volunteer swimmers. 
There was a moment's hesitation as they 
stood at grips with the idea and then the 
delight of it was too much for them. They 
laughed like children and fell to slipping off 
their suits. The youngsters were ready first, 
calling on dignified old farmers of fifty and 
sixty to hurry up. Nude as mermen they 
raced over the sand and entered the water 
with splash and cry. There was beauty in 
their shining bodies. The splendour of their 
physique was suddenly shown. Hundreds 
of figures now moved towards the sea. Some 
ran, some danced. It was speed and frolic 
that went with youth. Others, not so head- 
strong, sat down and clasped their knees, 
observing how their fellows took the water. 
A few elders, not overfond of action, sat 
apart on pine logs and enjoyed the scene. 

It was a great day for them ; and it was a 
great day for us. We who had so often com- 


pared the coolies to children now quite un- 
mistakably saw that they were children. 
They had no fooUsh dignity of men. They 
lost themselves in the moment's joy. They 
lived for that sunlit hour. And, like children, 
they weren't afraid of giving themselves 
away ; they had no false reticence, no false 
notions of nudity. And, that spring morn- 
ing, they seemed to inherit the earth. 

When a coolie has been in camp ten days 
and no rumour reaches him that he is likely 
soon to be bundled out and to begin a new 
stage of the Interminable Journey, he sees it 
is necessary to kill time. An addition or two 
to his kit-bag may occur to him. Therefore 
he steals — a pair of socks, a cap, a towel 
from his brother's equipment. It is easily 
done ; and no one is the wiser. His stealing 
has nothing to do with theft. He takes on 
the principle that if he doesn't take some 
one will take from him. Possibly he is found 
out and punished. That does not change his 
point of view. He is just unlucky. He is a 
unit of the defaulters' squad for a week. 
That is one way of killing time. 

Another way, and a wiser one, is to set to 
work and make things for himself. Materials 
are to hand. In the wire fence that sur- 
rounds the camp he sees not the means of 
enclosure, but the material for making a 
buckle for his grey cloth belt. Three feet of 



wire is not missed. It is no business of his 
if half the company follow his example. In 
a few days the fence sags and gapes. There 
is trouble ahead. The punishment, if any, 
is widely shared. It is surely worth while. 

Possibly his pantaloons have not stood 
the test of time and of continual use. He 
works in them, he sleeps in them ; they 
become a part of him. It is time to think of 
mending when the seams begin to go. He 
borrows a needle from some officer's orderly. 
But the latter won't give him thread. The 
ingenious coolie is not long in overcoming 
this difficulty. The trousers of his winter 
suit are padded with cotton wool. He opens 
the seams thereof, extracts a ball of cotton 
wool and spins the same in a wooden jenny 
of his own device. It is a lengthy process. 
But the thing is pour passer le temps. 

His native climate is dry from January to 
December. He suffers a little from the 
dampness of a Canadian spring. It may be 
he catches a cold. A belly belt suggests 
itself to him both as a prevention and a cure. 
A strip of good strong canvas will admirably 
suit the purpose. He doesn't cut a 3"x3^ 
strip out of his own tent because he thinks 


the deed would thus be less easily traced to 
him. He operates on the next tent because 
a piece out of his own would let in an 
abominable draught at night. And, of course, 
he is quite right. 

He now turns his hand to a quite innocent 
pastime. He unweaves the coco-nut mats 
which Were given to him on board ship, sets 
aside the coloured threads and reweaves 
them into baskets. Having accumulated a 
small stock in trade, he sells them in the 
dearest market which, with great commercial 
perception, he creates out of the camp 
visitors. He charges from ten to fifty cents 
a basket. The visitors think they are getting 
a bargain, as indeed they would be if mats 
had tongues and could tell their own stories. 

One day some girls visited the camp. 
They wore carnations. Whilst exploring the 
odorous mysteries of Kitchen No. 4 one of 
them dropped her bouquet. She didn't 
notice her loss. A company cook picked up 
the flowers and fondly examined them. He 
saw their beauty and determined to create 
more of their kind. So he obtained, it is 
impossible to say how, a sheet of pink paper 
out of which he made several blooms. He 


showed them proudly to his company officer 
who, seeing in this new industry a means to 
an amorous end, detailed a section to making 
imitation flowers : roses, foxgloves, blue- 
bells, carnations, irises, and so on. A passion 
for imitating nature spread through the 
ranks. It was a noble pastime. Some even 
bettered nature, gathering on route-marches 
branches from various trees and decorating 
them with blossoms unknown in any land. 

Coolie ingenuities do not stop at this. 
They glance admiringly at the neat putties 
worn by the Canadian camp sentries. Having 
other uses for snipings of tent canvas, they 
look in another direction for material and 
find it in the (to them) useless cloth waist- 
belts which they are made to wear. So by 
cutting it in two they convert this article 
into a pair of putties. Hemming and experi- 
menting in regard to the neatest manner of 
wearing this coveted apparel fill many an 
idle hour. 

Lastly, so much leisure drives the coolie 
artist mind to local action. Canvases almost 
without number lie stretched before him, 
inviting design and colour. But, beyond 
inscribing thereon the number of his section. 


he is forbidden to beautify his tent. So he 
casts down his eyes and sees the earth. He 
weeds and levels a patch until the naked 
clay presents a workable surface. Then he 
goes to the beach and picks up lumps of 
sulphur. He crushes a brick and makes 
madder-brown paste. He gathers coal dust 
and fragments of multi-coloured glass. His 
palette is now ready. First tracing a design, 
whether of a temple or a dragon, some 
legendary animal or religious figure, he " fills 
in " with the aforesaid mediums and the 
result, achieved on a fairly large scale, is the 
pride of the company commanders and the 
wonder of visitors. 

'leisure drives the coolie artist mind to action 


At length the rumour spread that we were 
to move again. Seemingly the coolies knew 
it before their officers. The news was not 
oflfieially given out until the day before 
departure, yet the camp quivered with excite- 
ment fully a week before we moved. It 
might have been a "mass" intuition. More 
likely a Canadian private gossiped with an 
interpreter and gave the game away. 

For all the easy life in Canada, the remnant 
of "O.K." party was not reluctant to march 
off to the wharf on May 23rd. Coolies, like 
their officers, were anxious to get on with 
the Interminable Journey, anxious to get 
over there. 

It was little to them that we were embark- 
ing, not to be ferried across to Vancouver 
(a few hours' run), but to sail to England 
via the Panama Canal. 




One limpid May afternoon, H.M.T. Empress 
of Asia sailed from a quarantine station in 
Canada with "O.K." party on board, who 
were now joined by East of the Mountain 
men. Our party was given the aft part of 
the ship and theirs the fore part. It was in- 
evitable that the two battalions should collide. 
They did so — and before embarkation had 
been completed. The police of both factions 
found themselves assigned to the same quar- 
ters. They fought with their truncheons for 
the choice bunks. Ours maintained that we, 
being the senior squad, had first choice in 
the matter ; theirs, on more general grounds, 
asserted that the two parties were now one 
and that the sleeping quarters should be 
fairly divided. They called one another 
tortoises, and consigned one another to 
perdition ; until a company officer, whose 
o 193 


temper had not been improved by three 
hours' continuous stowing away of coohes, 
burst upon the scene and threatened aboli- 
tion of the entire police force unless order 
was immediately restored. Order was re- 
stored and our squad found itself quartered 
astern where the vibration of the screw 
shook their bronzed bodies at night. 

It was an unlucky quarrel for us, for not 
only were the grounds on which we fought 
quite wrong, but by fighting we lost one of 
the choicest holds of the boat. 

East of the Mountain men were right. We 
were all of one body now. It was no use 
shouting about seniority when we were 
going into the submarine zone. After all we 
were not so senior. We had landed in 
Canada a week before them. But we had 
sailed from China only three days before 
them. And we had lost more than half of 
our original strength. We were a remnant 
with but three company officers of our own, 
not to mention Jule and the O.C. Whereas 
they had their full strength and a superfluity 
of officers. Notwithstanding in our hearts 
there was and could be nothing quite like 
the " O.K." party, and it seemed to us, 

JUNE 195 

reduced as we were, that we should have 
first say where say was necessary. 

So that from the outset, the idea of a 
division between the two battalions was dis- 
couraged. The main thing was to order our 
lives to the satisfaction of the Captain, not 
for officers to wrangle about who should be 
responsible for the sanitary conditions of 
this or that hold, or for coolies to dispute 
amongst themselves the right of way. 

It may be interjected here that one of the 
secrets of efficiently handling coolies (I sup- 
pose that as a matter of fact it applies to 
most organized bodies of men) is to make 
them responsible to none but themselves. 
If, for example, a coolie fails to attend life- 
boat drill and is found asleep in his bunk, 
he is informed that had the alarm been given 
he would have lost his life. He is to blame. 
Equally so his lance-corporal who should 
have seen that he was on parade ; and in a 
measure the fault is laid at the door of the 
corporal of his platoon and the sergeant of 
his section of the company. The blame, thus 
internally spread, does not attach to the 
company officer who, in order to ensure his 
own blamelessness, covers himself at every 


conceivable point. The position of the CO., 
however, becomes precarious when there are 
two parties on board and one is allowed to 
saddle the other with all wrong-doing. Re- 
sponsibility ceases ; he cannot justify his 
" strafe " unless he has unmistakable evi- 
dence, and such is quite unobtainable at a 
C.L.C. court-martial or court of inquiry. The 
only way out of it is to fuse the interests of 
both battalions. And this was done at a 
stroke by making all coolies aboard draw 
their rations at the same time. On the 
principle that if coolies can eat together they 
can work together without rupture, it was 
found possible to stamp out even a friendly 
rivalry between the East of the Mountain 
men and the West of the Mountain men. 

Ship's bounds did not allow the two to lie 
down together on the same deck and bask 
bare-footed in the sun that grew hotter and 
hotter day after day ; but there was no 
regulation against standing hand in hand, 
naked as Adam, under a cold shower and 
blessing the appointments of a modern trans- 
port. Neither was there anything against an 
exchange of social visits after parade had 
been dismissed. The police sank the enmity 

JUNE 197 

between them and took an oath to increase 
from that day forth the strength of the 
defaulters' squad. 

I find I have not referred previously in 
this diary to the task of stowing away coolies. 
In orders it is alluded to as "embarkation"; 
by those experienced in the job it is known 
as " packing." The coolies are not passengers 
capable of finding each his cabin ; the coolies 
are so much cargo, live stock, which has to 
be packed away, so many head in a hold. 
Picture them streaming into a hold, in single 
file, their packs on their backs. Now it is 
plain that if a coolie is not made to stay in 
the bunk allotted to him, he will wander 
around and block the incoming stream. 
Company oflficers, who are official packers, 
find that the best way of preserving order is 
to seize the kit-bag of the coolie as soon as 
he enters the hold, throw it in his bunk and 
bundle the owner after it. In this manner, 
and with the aid of malacca canes and 
gloved hands, members of the "O.K." party 
created a record, stowing away no less than 
1700 coolies in an hour and thirty-five minutes. 
Clarison figured prominently in this opera- 
tion. Full recovery after a long convalescence 


fitted him for an unrivalled display of energy. 
If it had not come from Malacca he would 
have broken his cane " sweeping the little 
blighters in." 

The next three days on board practically 
repeat the history of the first three days on 
our Pacific voyage. Days that were devoted 
to "settling down"; which process involves 
the appointment of special sanitary squads, 
posting the police, determining meal hours 
and other functions which kept Jule at it 
quite twenty-five hours a day. But there 
was this great difference in the inaugural 
history of the two voyages ; the "O.K." 
party were now old hands at keeping things 
clean. Two months in China, three weeks 
across the Pacific, ten weeks in Canada had 
not gone for nothing. Constant "strafing," 
endless patient explanation, and stern punish- 
ment had awakened in them the pride of a 
clean life. In camp they had fought for the 
ownership of a garbage tin ; company had 
sought to outdo company in the speckless- 
ness of their lines ; there had been petty 
internal quarrels over the discovery of a single 
grain of cooked rice on an otherwise clean 
tent floor. They carried this admirable 

JUNE 199 

scrupulousness on board the transport that 
now bore them onward through tepid tur- 
quoise waters under heat-saturated skies, 
onward to Panama. 

Jule had only to think back a few months 
in order to conjure up one of the strangest 
contrasts imaginable. Against this present 
white, this disgust with dirt was set the dark 
habits with which they came to camp in 
China ; a complete disregard of their person, 
a savage aversion to washing, toleration of 
the dust of years, a coughing and a spitting 
people. It was indeed wonderful, this con- 
trast ; and lucky it seemed to Jule that 
these particular battahons had this new 
bright idea of life before passing through 
one of the hottest zones in the world. 

This morning, for example, they lay on 
deck, fore and aft, on rafts and winch 
platforms, wherever there was an inch of 
space, the quietest, most contented folk in 
the world. They had finished cleaning their 
quarters and had come up to stretch them- 
selves at full length in the now tropical 
sun. The order of the day was no socks or 
shoes ; some did not think this relinquish- 
ment enough against the day's heat, so they 


left off their tunics as well. Others ven- 
tured on deck in the nude. These moral 
defaulters Were promptly dealt with by their 
sergeant, who doubtless fired at them some 
scathing Chinese proverb. But it was hot 
and one could not blame them for wearing 
as little as possible. All the morning they 
would laze in the sun, sleeping, dozing, 
humming to themselves, happy as so many 
rabbits in a field at noon. After their 
curiously childlike and affectionate manner 
they would lie asleep clasping each the 
other's hand or gently stroke the arm or neck 
of a neighbour. 

Even more wonderful for Jule were the 
nights, soft Southern nights that reminded 
him strongly of a trip, long since taken, 
through the Indian Ocean. It was too much 
for fully half of the coolies " down below." 
The stench was abominable. They could 
not breathe. So up they came and spread 
themselves on the decks. For something to 
lie on they brought their life-belts ; pillows 
as they called them in their own language. 
There was scarce enough room for all of 
them, so they lay limb to limb, careless of 
the heat they communicated one to another. 

JUNE 201 

glad to be where there was a breath of air, 
with the cool dew falling on them, under the 
stars. And before such a night was very old, 
the moon would rise like a tarnished disc of 
brass, out of a horizon thickened by the 
day's heat, higher and higher until the rays 
of it fell on a mysterious jumble of limbs, 
palely lighting them, so that the deck re- 
sembled a scene of death. 


In order to instance what a Jack of all 
trades the coolie is, what plastic stuff he is 
made of, how quickly he responds and adapts 
himself to a new set of circumstances, it will 
be weU to note here that by degrees he is 
taking over the diverse duties of the Can- 
tonese crew who have signed on only as far 
as some Atlantic port. By the time we reach 
that port he will run the ship. Of course, he 
won't have anything to do with the naviga- 
tion or with the engines, but, so far as we 
know at present, he will be stoker and cook, 
cabin and bar-boy, baker and laundryman, 
and he will probably be seen in some official 
capacity on deck. Progress in this direction 
has already been made. We find him to be 
a cabin-boy par excellence. He is given a 
white smock which quite hides the military 
grey of his working clothes. Wherefore, 
much pleased with his new uniform, he calls 
himself an angel. He is always about ; 
surely a great virtue on board an intricate 


JUNE 203 

modern passenger ship (which is now igno- 
miniously called a transport). Not only does 
he make one's bed, but he darns one's socks. 
He acutely observes the peculiar position of 
articles of toilette and leaves or replaces 
them just there. He even is sentimental. If 
an officer emblazons his washstand with a 
picture of his girl, the coolie cabin-boy will 
decorate the frame with paper flowers of his 
own creation. He knows where everything 
is, and apprentice though he be he will 
not allow his master's private effects to 
be touched by any Cantonese under the 

The bakers are quite in their element. In 
Shantung they were assistants in cook-shops ; 
they used to make meat pies. Now, under 
the supervision of the chief chej, they roll 
flour and bake it and make incomparable 
breakfast rolls. They wear aprons and look 
like little chefs. The chief chef is as proud of 
his apprentices as a turkey of her brood. 
They salute him as they salute their com- 
pany officers. He is a White Man, clothed in 
white, with a nice ruddy complexion, and 
they are quite deaf to his strong Cockney 
accent. Being O.C. that wonderful foreign 


kitchen he is able to give them things to eat 
untasted even by corporals and sergeants. 

Gradually they are getting into other 
positions. The electric laundry is equipped 
with a staff of efficient controllers. There 
are officer and errand boys galore. Every- 
where the employer meets with the same 
desire to please, the same versatility, the 
same canniness. They go at it with a grin. 
They combine modesty with boundless self- 
confidence. The volunteers for any job are 
always too numerous. 

I see in the employment of the coolies on 
board this transport a perfect epitome of the 
manner in which the Chinese have succeeded 
in so many parts of the world where other 
races, less plastic and less enduring, have 
failed to settle down and make good. The 
Chinese is the happy colonist ; hardship he 
endures with a grin ; he makes the foreign 
land his own, communicating to it his 
splendid energy. Consider his range. He 
moves at ease in the chintz-hung mahogany- 
furnished cabins of the first saloon, treading 
lightly and speaking in hushed tones ; he de- 
scends into the stoke-hole, dons overalls, and 
fires and rakes a furnace with the scientific 

JUNE 205 

abandon of a Vulcan ; ascend with him to 
the dispensary and perceive him in a white 
coat red-crossed ministering expertly to the 
ills of his fellows ; follow him to an un- 
occupied cabin where he is applying himself 
intently to the tracing of some native design 
on a length of silk ; there is not a manual 
job which he does not attempt and not many 
at which he does not excel. 


If there were no troops on board we could 
not conscientiously say that we were on a 
transport. As yet the war touch is lacking. 
We have no guns. We are not as careful as 
we should be about not showing lights at 
night. We should scarcely credit the reality 
of a periscope if we saw one. To be sure, 
when the whistle gives five blasts, we make 
ourselves uncomfortable around the neck with 
life-belts ; unhesitatingly we rush on deck, 
"fall in" and try to look interested; but we 
know aU the time it is merely camouflage. 
The Cantonese crew may sweat undoing ropes 
and letting down boats ; but we know that 
as surely as the whistle has blown five times, 
after an interval of a quarter of an hour, it 
will blow once, and that the Cantonese crew 
will have to sweat a jolly sight worse knot- 
ting ropes and pulling up boats. And then 
it is all over and we resume our safe exist- 
ences. In our own language we call life- 


JUNE 207 

belts pillows or belts of peace, so assured we 
are that we will never use them for the 
purpose for which they were invented. 
Enemy action is inconceivable. We live on 
the gunless gun-platforms and loaf in the 
Southern Pacific sun. We laugh at the 
flying fish and strain to catch a glimpse of 
other foreign fish glowing high-coloured in 
the neighbouring deep. We are just "O.K." 
party, by tradition and character men of 
peace going to the Great War. 

Jule, of course, knew that once through 
the Canal things would change. The coolies 
would see that these theatrical Ufe-boat 
drills had not been given to tickle their sense 
of humour ; that the gun-platforms were not 
a recreation ground ; that the apparently 
pernicious order to close all port -holes at 
night had been enforced on purpose, when 
the time came, to hold death off at arm's 
length. But he wagered that, even with the 
perils of war brought home to them, they 
would go on grinning and having their child- 
like jokes. 

But there are troops on board and we're 
as truly a transport as any that ever sailed 
from outpost seas, carrpng reinforcements. 


They are Canadian recruits, still quite raw. 
They only had their rifles given to them a 
week before they sailed. They don't know 
much about soldiering. In the narrow way 
of discipline they don't know as much as the 
coolies, to whom their morning drills are a 
source of keen enjoyment. The coolies can 
see them at work covering off, forming fours, 
marking time ; they shout words of en- 
couragement and unrestrainedly laugh at 
their mistakes which they are quick to note. 
But, on the whole, the coolies are extremely 

The Canadians know them as " Chinks." 
They have a great admiration for their 
physique, which in this tropical climate is 
displayed often in toto. Converse between 
troops and coolies is forbidden ; nevertheless 
it goes on. One may easily observe a coolie 
in earnest conversation with a sentry. A 
hopeless difference in language does not pre- 
vent fraternization. A coolie's gestures are 
eloquent ; so are a sentry's when he wants 
something. What he wants more often than 
not is a souvenir of the Chinks ; a basket, a 
coin, a paper flower. But he doesn't get 
it as easily as he thinks he should. A coolie. 

JUNE 209 

like all Chinese, has a passion for bargain- 
ing. He lingers over the negotiation as 
long as possible. As a rule he gets his price 


One early morning, hot at six o'clock, we 
were in sight of new shores, luxuriously 
vegetated shores that veered straight down 
into a calm blue lukewarm sea. No sooner 
seen by them than the coolies started the 
foolish cry that at length we had reached 
our destination. Indeed, it will be many a 
day before any part of France is as peaceful 
and as silent as the shores of Panama. 

The next nine hours of the Interminable 
Journey quite eclipsed in wonder anything 
that the coolies had seen before. A few of 
the better educated understood what we 
were about when we entered lock after lock, 
rising something like thirty feet at a time, 
up to the level of a huge, semi-artificial lake 
over which cranes and pelicans flew, the 
haunt of snakes and alligators, and the by- 
gone Home of Fever. Especially they were 
interested in the little electric engines, four 
of them on either side of the boat, which 
towed us into the lock, held us rigidly in 


JUNE 211 

position as we rose or fell, and towed us out 
again. These engines neither hissed nor 
chugged ; they hummed and suggested in- 
calculable power. Men East of the Hill 
joined with the men West of the Hill in 
their open-mouthed admiration of these 
things. Certainly the White Man was all he 
was cracked up to be — and a bit more. 

They say we passed through the Canal 
Zone on a day typical for this time of the 
year. In the Culebra Cut a violent thunder- 
storm drove below-decks hundreds of fas- 
cinated spectators. But not for long. Shortly 
they reappeared, having removed all un- 
essential garments. At every lock and at 
every station crowds of coons braved the 
rain (I suppose they are well used to it) and 
cheered us on our way. Among the coolies 
there was considerable dispute as to the 
reality of the coon. Some said he was a 
white man besmeared with black oil ; others 
more accurately defined him as a native of 
India. The first theory was, however, 
popularly accepted, for when a burly, bare- 
chested nigger came on board and made his 
way to the bow in order to take charge of 
the spring lines there, he was given ready 


passage through the multitude of coolies, who 
fell away from him, crying " Beware, beware, 
you'll soil your clothes with oil." 

Coolies and Canadians passing through the 
Canal ! It was novel enough to attract a 
crowd of Americans at every lock. They 
wanted to cheer the Chinks and see what 
manner of men they were. The Canadians 
heartily responded, but the coolies, unversed 
in cheering, clapped their hands, thinking 
this the most Western thing they could do. 
Between the locks niggers and negresses ran 
down the hillside as we passed, shouting and 
waving with ludicrous gusto. One negress, 
clothed in a waistless white dress, being 
carried away by her emotions, tore up a palm 
by the roots and waved it frantically as John 
Chinaman sailed by. Her enthusiasm was 
not to be cooled even by a moderate cloud- 
burst which, interested as he was, sent John 
Chinaman flying for shelter. 

Perhaps there were some ashore that day 
who thought the coolies a bloodless crowd. 
They didn't cheer ; they didn't wave flags ; 
hardly one of them waved his hand. They 
stood massed together in bow and stern, 
pressed against the side-rails, overflowing 

JUNE 213 

on to the emergency rafts ; they stood and 
stared, swaying slowly to and fro as a 
shoulder-to-shoulder mob always does, chat- 
tering now and again, but for the most part 
silent and gestureless. I admit that their 
mien must have been disappointingly cold, 
especially so perhaps to the laughter-loving 
coons ; but I wish that these good people of 
the Canal Zone could have known, as we 
knew, what was passing in the hearts of our 
coolies. Their pulses quickened not so much 
because they were the heroes of the hour, 
cheered as lustily as any patriotic AustraUan 
who had passed through on his way to the 
front, but rather on account of the increasing 
wonder of their voyage, the miracles of 
engineering to which they were witnesses, the 
continued good living and easy Ufe of which 
this day in particular was representative. 


Followed a couple of days and nights at 

Colon, the Atlantic end of the Canal. There 

we took on three thousand tons of coal. 

There the coolies were confirmed in their 

conclusion that they had come to a land 

where none laboured save the negro, and he 

did mighty little work. Electric machinery 

did everything. It even coaled the ship. At 

dusk and afterwards by the light of arcs, the 

coolies watched a very coliseum of steel 

minister to the internal needs of the ship. 

Vast shovels, swung down from a vast height, 

opened their claws, clutched a mass of coal, 

and swung up (the overflow falling back like 

black water) to empty their quarries in little 

well-built cars which, as soon as they were 

filled, automatically moved away on an 

elevated rail. Little well-built cars (not a 

man in sight) moved silently and slowly 

along until opposite something which looked 

like a grain elevator. The cars were hidden a 

moment in the elevator's intricacies. Then 



'followed a couple of davs and nxihts at colon 

JUNE 215 

the coal came sliding down a huge steel belt 
and so, through a shovel, into the yawning 
bunkers. It was all so wonderfully manless. 
The only men visible had nothing to do with 
the vast machine. They were American 
regulars who, dwarfed to pigmy size, strutted 
up and down the wharf under a world of 
steel. The coolies laughed at them, so tiny 
they looked. Upon which the httle soldiers 
would tilt their sombrero-like hats at a 
dangerous angle and nudge the stocks of 
their rifles desperately under their arm-pits. 

In point of fact their manner of carrying 
their weapons led the coolies to believe that 
the Yanks were Canal Zone huntsmen, not 
Sammies who had strict orders to shoot at 
sight any John Chinaman who attempted to 
break the immigration laws of Colon. 

Once clear of Colon we were, of course, in 
the Atlantic. In the Atlantic ! That meant 
a tightening of all ropes. The coolies were 
solemnly informed by Jule that the real test 
of their training would now be made. The 
great moment had arrived. It was now 
business in earnest. 

The seriousness of the matter was brought 
home to them not by word of mouth but 


by "physical" strafing. It just had to be. 
It was no time to argue and explain. 
For instance, Lin Ching, a weaver by pro- 
fession, a quiet and altogether harmless 
member of H Company, was found with- 
out his life-belt not half an hour after we 
left port. He quite understood the ex- 
hortation that a man and his life-belt were 
to be inseparable from now on, but, you 
see, a life-belt to his mind was not primarily 
a life-belt but a pillow. Now it so chanced 
that a certain company baker (a sworn 
brother of his), being without a belt of his 
own and desiring to take forty winks on 
deck, applied to Lin Ching for the loan of his 
pillow, which he was readily granted. For, 
be it said to his credit, a Chinese will stand 
by his brother through thick and thin ; he 
will both lie and steal for him. It was there- 
fore nothing to Lin Ching to tolerate the 
temporary absence of his life-belt. And it 
justifiably puzzled him that Clarison, of all 
company officers, should man-handle him 
for upholding the honour existing between 
Chinese sworn brothers. Clarison's explana- 
tion that should the ship suddenly sink, 
those who wore not life-belts would surely 

JUNE 217 

be drowned, was kind but tardy and really 
uncalled for. Why, argued Lin, should the 
ship suddenly sink ? And why should he be 
drowned when he could swim ? And was 
not the life of his sworn brother of more 
account than his own ? 

One begins to see the difficulties in the 
way of absolute discipline. But, if there is 
to be a minimum loss of life, absolute it must 
be. So Jule would reiterate to company 

So the coolies were given to understand 
that the most heinous of all crimes commit- 
table on the Atlantic was to strike a match 
on deck at night. Now Jule knew that a 
coolie is more liable to obey an order if he is 
given a reason for obeying it. The reason 
he gave was, should a coolie strike a match 
on deck at night, the instantaneous result 
would be the blowing up and consequent 
sinking of the ship. It was not vouchsafed 
whether the means of destruction was within 
or came from without, or how a match was 
suddenly endowed with such terrible powers. 
Notwithstanding, the Chinese, a myth-loving 
people, considered the explanation quite 
enough and fell to devising punishments of 


their own to be visited, over and above 
official justice, upon an offender against the 
new law. 

About this time Jule privately recorded 
that the coolies saw that there was more in 
the above " explanation " than meets the 
eye. "The coolies," he jotted down, "are 
aware of the existence of the submarine." 
Indeed the subject was " worked to death " 
in German propaganda long ago in the 
recruiting days in China. Rumours were 
constantly being circulated from " official 
sources " that hardly a battalion of coolies 
ever escaped an enemy submarine. Although 
such rumours were generally discredited, the 
possible dangers were not. So that it gradu- 
ally dawned upon them there was some 
connexion between striking a match at 
night on the Atlantic and giving away ship's 
position to the Hun. 

Life, to be sure, was dreadfully restricted. 
Lin Ching found his simplest movements 
embarrassed by the now ever-present life- 
belt. It was like living in a strait- waistcoat. 
He could no longer slink and slide along, 
after his manner, and get there first. He had 
to wait and take his turn, whether drawing 

JUNE 219 

rations or visiting the hospital. He found 
himself misjudging the width of a door. 
Instead of lying on his side at night, he had 
now to lie on his back. And, unkindest of 
all, he had to keep the thing on during meals. 
Wherefore his sense of decorum (strongly 
instinct in any Chinese) was outraged. 

Furthermore, all port-holes were painted 
and then sealed up. In a moderate climate 
this would have been a calamity ; in the 
tropics it was a tragedy. Lin Ching meekly 
complained to his corporal that it was im- 
possible to breathe the air of his hold. The 
corporal, a weak man, sympathized and 
carried the matter to his sergeant. The ser- 
geant, not daring to question the order of 
the day, somewhat cryptically replied : 

" It is better that one man die than four 
thousand perish." 

It was unanswerable and Lin had to be 

To add to the tension, life-boat drills 
began. The poUce did what they could to 
regulate the traffic of men, but their efforts 
availed little against a stream of htmdreds 
and hundreds. It was like a crowd rushing 
for a tram-car. When the whistle blew five 


times, it was a signal for all to get on deck 
as soon as possible. And all did. A footer 
scrum was not in it. But it was all done 
without injury, even without loss of temper. 
And, according to Jule, the orderly officer 
was justified in noting officially that " life- 
boat drill was carried out in an orderly 


It was a relief to all when what may be 
called the Atlantic tension was eased tem- 
porarily by our putting into a Jamaican port. 
With port-holes open and wind-shoots out, 
we lay in harbour some days. We had 
nothing to do but gaze at the town, with its 
red roofs brilliant among palms, its toy-like 
trams racing along and leaving a track of 
white dust, its quiet old-world water-front. 
The darkies came alongside in the canoes : 
boys to dive for pennies and men and girls 
to sell bananas and mangoes and melons. 
We (by this time impoverished coolies) had 
no money to fling away, so bartered parts of 
our equipment. It was so hot that we had 
no need for most of our clothes. And, since 
it has been hot for so long, we assumed it 
would never grow cold again. A cap pur- 
chased half a dozen bananas ; a tunic, a 
small basket of mangoes. The dark men 
were satisfied with their end of the bargain 
and so were we with ours. But, early in the 


day, our company officers took exception 
violently to this system of exchange, so that 
for the rest of our stay it could not be prac- 
tised openly. The black men called us 
" Chinks," after the manner of Americans, 
and treated us with little deference. They 
impressed us as a dirty, loud-mouthed people, 
entirely lacking in a sense of delicacy. We 
smiled at their girls, but didn't think them 
amusing. We did, however, generously ad- 
mire the superb swimming and diving of the 
boys. They didn't lose a single coin. 

We took a strong aversion to the dark 
women, who were not only ill-shaped, but 
dirty and clothed in poppy-coloured blouses 
or daffodil yellow or some other abominable 
colour. When some hundreds of them came 
on board to help with the coaling and trim- 
ming of the bunkers, we gave them a wide 

We are never allowed ashore. Nor are our 
friends, the Canadians. On the contrary, 
the White Excellencies are. They lose no 
time about it. As soon as the ship lies at 
peace in the harbour, the stairs are lowered 
by our fellow-countrymen, the Cantonese, 
and the Excellencies, some in uniform and 

JUNE 223 

some in white, are away. Not that we in the 
least care where they go or what they do ; 
not that we want to grow more intimate with 
the unsavoury blacks. But the palms and 
the hills look jolly and we would learn some- 
thing of the customs of a foreign country. 
The Canadians do not accept the matter as 
quietly as we do. According to Interpreter 
Kwong they raised their voices the other 
night so that their commander could hear 
them, crying, " When are we going ashore ? " 
It was not the right way to go about it, for 
owing to these words they were sent to bed 
an hour ahead of the usual time. 


Once more the tension tightened. Life- 
belts on, port-holes closed, and silence on 
deck at night. We were steaming in the 
danger-zone, bound, so we understood, for 
some Atlantic port, with no guns on board 
and five submarines in the vicinity. Those 
who had work were happiest. The sanitary 
squad busy below decks, the silk workers 
bending over dragons of their embroidery, 
the company bakers rolling flour, the cabin 
boys, the orderlies^ — none had time to scratch 
their shaven heads over the inexplicable 
antics of our transport ; how she zigzagged 
and altered her course and changed her speed 
and altogether behaved in a creepy manner. 
Our friend, Lin Ching, having learnt his 
lesson, was not loath to attribute every- 
thing extraordinary to the presence of enemy 
under- water craft. It was a darkish night at 
sea, thirty-six hours' steaming from a West 
Indian port. The moon was late in rising ; 

a tropical haze obscured the stars. Silently 


JUNE 225 

we parted the waters of a dead calm. The 
Canadian guards stood motionless, one on 
the port side, one on the starboard of the 
boat deck, leaning on their rifles, gazing out 
to sea in search of the phosphorescent wake 
of a periscope. On a lower deck astern slept 
the coolies, some half-naked, some clothed in 
their thinnest grey summer suits ; altogether 
an indefinite grey mass on the dark night in 
question. Lin Ching found it too hot down 
below in the holds. He tried to fan himself 
to sleep, but the heat and excitement were 
too much for him. He felt that something 
was going to happen. He had just an ounce 
of imagination which caused him a pound of 
troubled dreams in which under-sea craft 
played the leading role. So he came on deck 
to get away from his sergeant who parroted 
the O.C.'s warning in regard to the fatal 
attraction which an open port-hole had for 
an enemy submarine. He came on deck to 
get fresh air and sleep. 

Now when a coolie has to choose his bed- 
place on deck he does so with great delibera- 
tion. There are so many things he has to 
consider. If there's a wind blowing he has 
to find shelter. If there's a moon shining he 



must needs find shadow. There is always 
the possibiHty of rain — especially in the 
tropics — so he has to have some kind of a 
roof over his head. He must be away from 
the beat of a policeman. Policemen are apt 
to jab their truncheons into some part of the 
nearest coolie just in order to show a rounds- 
visiting officer that they are carrying out 
their duties. Then again it is unwise to lie 
near a thoroughfare, for an officer, making 
rounds, has no more respect for the leg or 
stomach or face of a coolie than he has for 
the steel stairs of the companion-way. So 
Lin Ching stood quite still for a few moments, 
life-belt in hand, deliberating if he would 
spend the night under an emergency raft (a 
favourite resort) or on the base of an hydrauhc 
crane. And as he stood his eye roamed and 
he looked out to sea and saw a light ! Yes, 
it was a light, appearing and disappearing, 
never dropping behind as though it were 
fixed, but running with the ship — far away — 
as if in pursuit. He reasoned what it could 
be and calmly concluded that it was an 
enemy submarine. He drew a policeman's 
attention to it, stating in a conversational 
tone that it was an enemy submarine. The 

JUNE 227 

two quite agreed that it was an enemy sub- 
marine ; and the policeman would have left 
it at that had not our slightly imaginative 
Lin Ching suggested the suitability of ad- 
vising the orderly officer that there was a 
submarine in pursuit. The suggestion ap- 
pealed to the policeman, but he thought that 
a third unbiased party might be consulted 
before any action was taken. So they stirred 
a coolie who was near into consciousness and 
asked him to have a look at the light. The 
third party could not say what it was until 
Lin hinted that it might be — ^nay, was an 
enemy submarine ! With which the coolie 
agreed, consenting to be one of a party of 
three who would report the matter. 

The three lay in wait for the orderly 
officer, trusting to catch him when he made 
his next rounds. But orderly officers are 
almost always somewhere else when they are 
wanted. So rather than disturb him in the 
smoking-room (where he was probably play- 
ing a rubber of bridge) they decided to re- 
port to one of the Canadian guards. Normally 
this would not be possible without the aid of 
an interpreter, but the matter being urgent 
they appHed to him directly and pointed out 


the light. The reply he gave them was to 
jab his thumb over his shoulder and tell 
them to go back where they had come from 
— and possibly a bit further — ^towards per- 

It was pretty bad for Lin and his com- 
panions to mistake a revolving land light for 
an enemy submarine, but in order to palliate 
Lin's mistake and to demonstrate that white 
or yellow born, imaginative minds act much 
alike, it may be stated that not two hours 
after this incident the Canadian guard, who 
so scornfully received Lin's report, himself 
reported to the Captain's bridge a burning 
ship astern, which turned out to be nothing 
more than the rising moon. 

A setting star befooled the other guard. 
Passionate Venus he mistook for a light to 
port ; this, one early morning before dawn 
when Lin Ching lay asleep beneath an 
emergency raft. 

Later that same morning we joined a 
small convoy consisting of the Brat, our sole 
escort, a small gunboat taken over from the 
enemy by U.S. Navy ; Camouflage, an awk- 
ward old liner decorated in the latest post- 
impressionist manner ; and Weary Willie, 

JUNE 229 

an Australian transport which we unjustly 
accused of limiting the speed of our convoy 
to nine knots. The Brat was once an enemy 
craft ; so we had little respect for her. Be- 
sides, there was something particularly Ger- 
man about her. She was squat and ugly ; 
she lacked poise ; she had no lines. She 
seemed totally inadequate for our protection. 
And, though she was better than nothing 
and a faithful companion and competent 
guide, we positively blushed for her when 
one morning she hoisted a sail to take advan- 
tage of a strong following Wind. Apologies 
were mentally made to Weary Willie, for we 
knew then she was not holding us back. 

Outside a serene few who, extraordinarily 
dense, do not even know that there is a war 
on and whom nothing less than the explosion 
of a torpedo amidships would stir to astonish- 
ment, perhaps the calmest coolie on board 
is a hospital dresser, a tubby, round-faced 
coolie who strongly reminds one of the 
popular conception of Humpty - Dumpty. 
Dumpty — as we may call him — did yeoman's 
service coming across the Pacific. With two 
C.A.M.C. men " under the weather," and a 
bespectacled little Chinese doctor on the 


point of prostration, Dumpty carried on, 
making wonderful use of a slight knowledge 
of medicine. He would bandage, diagnose, 
take a temperature, prescribe with confident 
jollity. He always had a smile, truly a 
generous smile, of the healing effect of which 
he was quite unconscious. His manner, not 
skill, won for him an enviable clientele. 
When calm seas restored the certified medicos 
to their practice, many coolies would have 
none of them, preferring to consult Dumpty. 

Dumpty is still with us, but he is out of a 
job, for at this stage of the Interminable 
Journey there are no sick. 

It is worth while chronicling here that our 
John Chinaman is an exceedingly clever 
shammer. In terms of trouble and in point 
of appearance there is no difference between 
a coolie who is really sick and one who is 
shamming. Paralysis is a favourite sham. 

It is readily resorted to when a coolie thinks 
he has done enough work for the present. 
Suddenly, mysteriously he is dispossessed of 
the power to move his legs. They dangle 
from him horribly. An officer thinks he is 
shamming, so he details a couple of men to 
set the paralytic on his feet. But his feet 

JUNE 231 

will not hold him; he collapses. And, be it 
said, he will endure both pain and shame to 
prove that he is not shamming. When his 
word is tested he becomes perverse. He loses 
sight of his original object. The maintenance 
of the sham grows more important than the 
shirking of work. This is characteristic of 
our John Chinaman. 

In the dull camp stages of the Inter- 
minable Journey, the number of malingerers 
reaches high- water mark. It is only Dumpty 
who is able to deal with them. They cannot 
fool him. Maybe they don't want to. His 
smile reduces them to active reality. His 
simplicity intensifies their sense of shame. 

When there is a move on, there are no 
shammers. Indeed, the sick in hospital 
miraculously acquire health. The half -dead 
pray with pathetic earnestness to be released. 
On the point of every move the sick are 
seized with a holy horror of being left behind. 
To be left behind is to be indefinitely delayed, 
to be cut off, to be repatriated perhaps. A 
dreadful business. 

I described Dumpty in order to instance 
that in the submarine zone the coolest may 
be caught unawares. It is a zone of perils 


and surprises, adventures and heroisms, and 
eminently a zone of false alarms. There is 
no rest for the nervous. For the imaginative 
it is a nightmare. For good and for bad it is 
upsetting. And yet, looking back on a few 
days of it, nothing has happened ; probably 
nothing will happen. We have sailed the 
seas in peace. We have had security. Only 
we have been troubled by dwelling on the 
propinquity of these under-water monsters. 
As if the surface monsters, the winds and 
the waves, had not been infinitely more 
perilous to Columbus and his companions 
who landed long, long ago not far from 
where we are to-day ! 

Jule is chatting with the sergeant of police. 
He is straining his newly acquired Chinese 
vocabulary to reaffirm the fatalness of 
smoking on deck after dark. He is struggling 
with a metaphor when he feels himself lightly 
touched on the arm. He turns to perceive 
Dumpty — Dumpty with no smile. Some- 
thing is wrong. The tubby little fellow is 
fairly trembling with excitement. At last 
he speaks. He wishes to draw his Excel- 
lency's attention to something over there in 
the sfea, about a couple of hundred yards 

JUNE 233 

astern of Weary Willie, something resembling 
a two-foot section of gas-piping that cuts 
through the water and causes a wake, some- 
thing that follows Weary Willie with deadly 
precision, now seeming to gain slightly, now 
falling behind. What is it ? He would like 
to know ; as would a number of coolies 
whose keen eyes are focused on the pheno- 
menon. To Jule it is a periscope at first 
sight. The next second he expects Weary 
Willie to say something on the matter, with 
a diagonal remark perhaps from the Brat 
which is dead ahead of us. But the second 
passes and no gun spits. Then, instead of 
the flash and boom of a 4.7, a machine-gun 
breaks out into intermittent fire. Where- 
upon jets of water in alignment with the 
ci-devant phenomenon, some a good deal 
short and others quite beyond. 

" Don't thinlc much of that shooting," says 
Clarison to Jule. 

" A target, of course," cries Jule. And, 
hailing an interpreter, he proceeds to set 
Dumpty at rest on the point. 

And Dumpty, convinced, duly informs the 
increasing crowd of coolies. 

And so every morning at the same hour 


Weary Willie would drop a target from her 
stern and tow it along. It would be fired at 
with indifferent results. The coolies would 
severely criticize the marksmanship. Not 
all so well informed as Dumpty, there was 
surprise at the daily punctual appearance 
of the enemy. The skirmish was always 
followed with the greatest interest. If the 
target was hit (you could hear the plunk on 
the wooden frame) they would cry with 
delight, and when at length, the day's prac- 
tice over, the target was cut adrift and fell 
rapidly behind Weary Willie, as if in full 
retreat, cheering would go up from our decks 
and they would fall to congratulating one 
another on the defeat of the enemy. 


Lin Ching, on his return to China years 
hence, when there is peace in the world 
again, will tell in a tea-house with friends 
and relatives around, how on the Inter- 
minable Journey to France, he touched at 
the most wonderful city of the West — New 
York. He will not be conventional and 
describe the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn 
Bridge and the sky-scrapers. The crowded 
entrance to the harbour, the ceaseless trip- 
ping and tooting, the bustling docks, will 
probably have passed out of his mind. 
Neither will he remember the entire novelty 
of everything he saw, from the neat green 
Narrows to the broad sweep of the Hudson 
swinging northwards. He, the unassuming 
weaver, will recall but two things. First, the 
port lights of the holds were open in New 
York ; last, white people waving from ferries 
in New York. 

There is an incident connected with the 
first memory. It is midnight. The ship lies 



alongside the wharf. If Lin puts his head 
out of the port, he sees the steel sides of the 
great warehouse, high and massive in the 
hght of arc-lamps. He sees the water 
gleaming oilily against the dark hull ; he 
hears it gurgling and gently splashing. A 
minute, and a siren shrieks. Then the chum 
and hiss of propellers. It is on the other side 
of the ship. There between the stern of the 
ship and the warehouse, as in a rectangular 
frame of grey and black, he sees a tug pass 
followed by a barge ; a red light gleams, 
then a green one. The air is keen though 
not fresh ; it is coldish and odorous like the 
atmosphere of a cellar in which meat and 
vegetables are stored. It is appetizing. He 
inhales it. Presently with a groan a door of 
the warehouse slides open, revealing a man 
who manipulates a white broom with con- 
siderable energy. Lin perceives that the 
man is a White Man dressed in dusty-dark 
clothes with a slouch hat drawn over his 
eyes. He notices also that the White Man 
has a stubbly white beard. For which Lin 
respects him, for age is highly honoured and 
deferred to in China. He is sweeping out 
the warehouse. Pausing a moment he sees 

JUNE 237 

the weaver — a bronze hairless head sticking 
out of a port-hole, two brown eyes, bright as 
the eyes of a cat. Lin grins. The sweeper 
grins terribly by way of imitation. 

" What's your name, Charlie ? " he cries. 

Lin politely responds by jerking up his 
thumb — a native gesture suggesting super- 

" Yer don't get me," says the sweeper, 
shaking his head. 

Lin again signals super lativeness. This 
time with great animation. His eye, ever on 
the alert for something to eat or to appro- 
priate permanently, lights on the sweepings 
of the White Man. Huge emerald cabbage 
leaves, among wooden shavings and other 
rubbish, are being rushed towards destruc- 
tion. Two sweeps of the broom and the 
delectables wiU be over the side of the dock, 
down in the dirty water. It is too wasteful 
for words — ^those delicious cabbage leaves 
going . By stretching out both arms sud- 
denly he manages to bring the sweeper to a 
full stop — ^just in the nick of time. 

" Naw then, Chinky, what are yer up to ? " 

For a moment it looked like suicide. 

Having attracted the attention of the 


sweeper, Lin mimics the act of eating and 
intensely enjoying a cabbage leaf. 

The sweeper watches him, fascinated, then 
points to his own head, so attesting his belief 
in Lin's insanity. 

"Go to bed, Chinky, go to bed," he cries 
in disgust, going on with his work. 

But Lin is not to be put off. Since gestures 
fail to convey his desire, he resorts to speech 
and explains, beyond a shadow of misappre- 
hension, what he wants. He is meticulously 
polite too, calling the sweeper " Honourable 
Aged " ; but all his eloquence and politeness 
are wasted. With one last swish — horribly 
adept — ^the sweepings go, cabbage leaves and 
all, rustling and flapping into the liquid 

Lin's head disappears. New York becomes 
for him a place of Lost Opportunities. 

In respect to the second memory there 
will come into his mind a picture of the 
ferries crossing and recrossing the river as 
we lay at anchor in the Hudson before moving 
into dock. Oh, those dark red ferries that 
rushed by, causing such a wash and a stir ; 
crowded they were wherever there was space 
to sit or stand, crowded with little white men 

JUNE 239 

and women who waved and cheered and 
jostled one another to get a good view of Lin 
Ching as he stood leaning against the rail, 
one of a mass of coolies. Boat after boat 
passed and there was always cheering, 
waving, excitement. The humble weaver 
never knew whether or no he should wave 
back ; he couldn't make up his mind, so he 
didn't wave ; nor did any of his brothers. 
Yet he dimly felt there was welcome, friend- 
liness, something nice at any rate in this 
constant display of handkerchiefs. He saw 
the Excellencies on the higher deck waving 
back, and possibly they had an acquaintance 
on each ferry that passed. And he remem- 
bered how when night fell the ferries con- 
tinued to go by, now ablaze with light as if 
bediamonded. And still there were the 
same signs of welcome, visible and audible. 
For many hours he witnessed this wonder, 
then went below with the sight and sound of 
the last ferry as a vision in his head, mysti- 
fied as to the meaning of the little White Men 
and Women. 

It was otherwise with Dumpty. His in- 
telligent eyes were wide open as we glided 
past quays and colliers at anchor and convoys 


awaiting escort up towards Manhattan Island. 
He saluted the Statue of Liberty as the 
largest monument he had ever seen. He 
inquired what manner of Buddha the green 
bronze lady was. Seen a mile away he 
mentally docketed New York as a first- 
class walled city. The walls appeared im- 
measurably higher and stouter than the 
Great Wall which he had seen at Nan San, 
a few miles from Peking. The bridges span- 
ning the East River were incomparable, 
exceeding surely the most visionary concep- 
tion of Kubla Khan. Soon he saw the sky- 
scrapers were not walls, but buildings of 
astonishing height. The perils of the city, 
he thought, must be very great. In a strong 
wind such structures might topple. And it 
cannot be a nice city to dwell in, for in the 
streets there must always be more shadow 
than sunshine. And people who live in 
everlasting danger and comparative darkness 
cannot be a happy people and must stand in 
need of a good deal of medical attention. In 
which conjectures, so simply reasoned, 
Dumpty was more correct than one would 

It was no disappointment to Dumpty that 

JUNE 241 

he was not allowed ashore, for he knew by 
this time that coolies never disembarked unless 
the ship had reached her final destination, 
and he, in common with the rest of the 
" O.K." party, knew that the transport was 
to carry them all the way to England or to 
France, and that New York for a certainty 
was neither England nor France. Yes, for 
once the cry, "This is France," was not 
raised. New York, it almost seems, took 
the coolies unawares and impressed upon 
them her own extraordinarily strong identity. 
It is one of the tragedies of the war that 
so many delightful things in connexion with 
it have to be kept secret. Numbers, positions 
and movements as affecting the transport of 
men must on no account be given away in 
either letter or chin-wag. The theory is 
that all walls — especially the walls of New 
York — ^have ears and that lurking behind the 
walls is the enemy. This truth was fully 
appreciated by Jule as he went ashore at 
"the greatest port in the world," and pro- 
ceeded in company with friends to see the 
sights and meet people — people who wanted 
to know all about the ship which, the day 
before, had anchored in the Hudson, 


crowded in bow and stern with men in grey 
uniforms — Orientals they were sure — whether 
Indian, Chinese or Japanese they didn't 
know. That's what they wanted to learn. 
Who were all these men and where were 
they going ? A paper said (papers always 
get inside information) they were Japanese 
troops which had come through the Panama 
Canal straight from Nippon, reinforcements in 
fact for the Western Front. Could Jule throw 
any light on the matter ? Of course he could. 

Jule, escorted by his sister who — ^what 
luck ! — happened to live in New York, was 
sitting in a fashionable restaurant in Fifth 
Avenue. They were accompanied by a 
couple of youthful and charming American 
beauties — a sisterly provision to which Jule 
had faintly objected, maintaining chival- 
rously that, if luck gave him his sister for a 
day or two, he should give all himself and 
all his time to her. 

" You old hypocrite," she said, promising 
that if he didn't like her taste in Yankee 
girls she would send them away and punish 
him with her sole lovable presence for the 
rest of his leave, which was about four hours. 

Needless to say Jule discovered that he 

JUNE 243 

was in profound agreement with his sister's 
idea of American beauty. 

It was something to two well-dressed young 
women not long out of college that they were 
talking to a man who was a banker in China 
or in some bank — ^it mattered not which — 
this was an experience in itself. It was also 
something that they were having tea with a 
man who was in charge of they didn't know 
how many Chinese. But it was infinitely 
more to the point that they were dancing 
with Miss East's brother who was "going 
over." Going over! That was the magic 
phrase of the moment. Into its meaning 
was infused all the fresh fervour with which 
America has entered the war ; all the com- 
mendation of which two patriotic young 
hearts were capable. There was nothing in- 
sincere about their sudden interest in him 
and his particular job of work ; nothing 
artificial or in the least galling about their 
openly affectionate treatment of him that 
afternoon of talk and tea and dance. He 
felt with some misgiving that he was being 
lionized. He didn't want or deserve it ; 
months ago he had said his real farewell, 
away in China, who had held out her hands 


to him and beflagged and tin-deified him 
until he felt that never in this world would 
he become a hero. This was quite aside from 
the consideration that as yet he had done 
nothing worth speaking about ; he had 
merely been with a battalion of coolies for a 
few months ; he had seen strange parts of 
the world with them ; he was going to take 
them to France. He was less of a soldier 
than old Sammy who sat at the next table, 
trained and in uniform, probably going over 
there in the same convoy as himself. Yes, 
technically he had not even got his commis- 
sion and he sat there in ignominious mufti. 

So in order to defend himself against un- 
deserved praises and pettings, he began to 
talk about the coolies and to tell everything 
he could which would redound to their 
credit and which in the teUing would be 
within the honour of an officer. He told of 
their gentle and generous natures, their 
response to stern fair treatment with the 
right spirit of obedience, their submission 
and simplicity, their endurance of serious ill, 
their contentment over long periods with the 
bare necessities of life without any of life's 
adornments or degeneracies, their wonderful 

JUNE 245 

health and magnificent bodies, bodies capable 
of almost unbehevable labour, labour that 
was lifting them in France to the praiseful 
respect of their brother, the British navvy 
and the Colonel of Labour alike. Also he 
told of their keen sense of humour. It was 
either that or a prevailing joy of life in their 
simple worriless outlook which enabled them 
to grin and keep on grinning. 

"A coolie with a grouch," Jule went on, 
warming up to his fair audience, "is as rare 
as a camel without a hump. I don't think 
he exists. His sense of humour is too keenly 
developed to allow him to make an ass of 
himself. He is continually seeing fun in 
little things. His lips shape to a laugh on 
the faintest provocation. He is a jolly chap. 
My O.C. tells me that he has stopped a riot by 
making a joke. Show a coolie the ludicrous 
side of anything and he is submissive, beaten. 
This is the kind of man we have to deal with. 
And he is doing his bit over there. I don't 
think it matters greatly whether he is con- 
scious of doing his bit or no. At least fifty 
per cent of them but faintly realize there is 
a war on. It is a huge game to them, and 
they don't know the sides or the ways or the 


rules of it. All they know is that they are 
going to take part and earn some money and 
keep on seeing new things. The whole matter 
is placed before them in the light of a business 
proposition. Transport to France, and back 
to China when their job of work is done ; a 
franc a day while they are at it and a 
separation allowance made to their families. 
Roughly that. They are not conscripted ; 
their services are voluntary. There is no 
question of ' Go and labour in France, for 
China is one of the Allies.' It is : ' Here's a 
chance to see the world and earn good 
money.' The patriotic strain may be absent 
in the beginning and in the getting there, 
but it was shown but recently." 

Jule stopped. Horrified he heard himself 
talking like a book. Wasn't he making him- 
self a bore ? There was a fox-trot in full 
swing. Why wasn't he dancing instead of 
talking about something he didn't know a 
great deal about ? He requested the pleasure 

of In a minute he was away, swaying to 

the melody of Poor Butterfly. 

As they danced, he found himself con- 
tinuing his peroration : 

" Yes, it's said they fought with picks and 

JUNE 247 

shovels, anything hard and sharp that they 
could lay their hands on to keep the Hun 
from breaking through. Of course, the whole 
thing may be a bit of journalism, but from 
what I know of the coolie it's quite possible. 
At any rate it was only a tiny incident on a 
tiny bit of the front, but it fairly shows the 
spirit of these fellows. As a matter of fact 
they don't have to be caught in one of our 
retreats to deal the enemy a blow. They are 
doing that well enough behind the lines. 
Remember, practically every coolie who goes 
to France releases an able-bodied man to go 
into the trenches. I'm not sure, though, 
that the coolie himself wouldn't like a turn 
in the trenches ! " 

" He won't be given a turn, will he ? " 
asked Jule's partner. 

" I'm afraid not. Yet you never can tell. 
If the war goes on long enough I don't see 
why they shouldn't bring over a few hundred 
thousand of these splendid fellows. Probably 
they would make good fighters — almost as 
good fighters as they are labourers. At all 
events, if they don't get a Tommy's chance 
in this war, they will get it sooner or later in 
their own country. It will be a war of their 


own — a civil war — not flesh and blood 
against flesh and blood, but clean, clear open 
minds against the dirt and truck and turgid- 
ness of centuries. When these men go back 
to China they won't be satisfied with the old 
life, the constricted and congested village 
life ; they wiU want an existence more akin 
to our Western ideas and ideals of life ; they 
will want more order, more open spaces, more 
cleanliness, and they won't want to stick in 
one place their whole lives. They will want 
to move from one part of the country to the 
other, and mix and throw light into one 
another's lives. In a word they will be pro- 

" Not surely as we have been progressive," 
commented the young collegian. " Look 
where our progress has led us." 

The dance had finished and they were 
sitting again at the table. 

" No," continued Jule, " their progress 
won't lead them to racial suicide. And I 
think if the truth were known their leaders 
are pretty sick of civil war. They want to get 
together, as you Americans say, and construct. 
Indeed, I shouldn't wonder if a really stable 
form of government resulted from their 

JUNE 249 

labour movement. Just a few drops of the 
best blood of China are in France — ^the simple 
solid farming folk of China — and that blood 
will go back one day to leaven the whole 

" What are you young people talking 
about ? " put in Jule's sister. 

" Something we don't know much about," 
he answered blushingly. " The old Chinks 
" he began. 

" Don't call them Chinks," the American 
girl said, pouting. " I'll never call them 
Chinks again ! I think they are just little 
tin gods ! " 

It is the destiny of all CooUe Labour Batta- 
lions, once landed in France, to be divided 
into I don't know how many parts, and dis- 
persed over a wide area of usefulness. Only 
in transportation is it a body, having a 
character quite its own. It ceases to exist, 
save in name. 

If, in certain minds, the " O.K." Battalion 
is immortalized it shall be for these : 

The Christian sergeant of E Company, who 
renounced pedagogy in China for labour in 


France. He converted his entire company 
if not to Christianity, then to hymn-singing 
and to a kind of prayer which certainly was 
not " heathenish." I see him again, in his 
company's hold, the centre of a throng of 
coolies. His squat little Napoleonic figure is 
swaying in time to the melody of " Onward, 
Christian Soldiers." He beats the time with 
a red paper-covered book. His voice clear 
and strong, though to our ears quite un- 
attractive, rings above the rest. And the 
rest in varying pitch and with tinsel timbre 
follow him as best they can. And they find 
themselves being led not by his definite 
beat, but by his boundless enthusiasm. I 
don't suppose the Christian sergeant had 
missionary ideas of conversion. He had a 
pretty good idea of Christianity himself ; he 
could teach probably as well as he had been 
taught. But he knew better than the mis- 
sionary the dangers of half turning a man 
towards some new light. So he left the 
creed alone ; he didn't preach. Only he 
sang and prayed, and his song was a rousing 
hymn and his prayer was a jolly sensible talk. 
Nothing could disturb the equanimity of 
the old chap, not even the report that one of 

JUNE 251 

his own coolies had done wrong. I think he 
must have thought of it in this way, that un- 
intentionally the coolie hadn't done right, 
not that he had purposely done wrong. He 
was kindly and liberal towards his men, but 
he was not a softie. I imagine that his 
rebuke, which he never backed up with 
physical force, was very ef&cacious. He 
would take a man apart and explain his 
error. He would, I dare say, trade upon his 
knowledge of the classics to awe and gain 
obedience from the offender. The Chinese 
profoundly respect learning and listen more 
readily to figurative reason than to bullying 
rebuke. How well the Christian sergeant 
understood his men and what excellent 
results he obtained ! 

Then there was the little actor of F Com- 
pany who had belonged to a company of 
strolling players in China and who never 
ceased to play the fool from the day he 
became a labourer. He was a little fellow 
who looked not more than seventeen or 
eighteen. Mischief was writ large on every 
feature of his little bronze face ; his hazel 
squint eyes danced from dawn to sundown. 
For just a coolie he was almost dangerously 


intelligent. He had a great following in his 
company. He could amuse a crowd at any 
moment, and when he hadn't a crowd he 
could amuse himself. He was something of 
an acrobat. He would turn cartwheels or 
do the splits or stand on his head for no reason 
at all. But he could amuse best by mimicry. 
He would take off company commanders 
in their most solemn moments. He would 
imitate a Canadian sentry on guard, flagrantly 
showing his disrespect for that gentleman. 
As for the coolie police, he would play the 
clown before those dignitaries as they filed 
to their posts whether on board ship or in 
camp. He was intensely in his element when 
in Canada a company of actors and acrobats 
was called for to amuse parties of jaded 
Brass Hats who came out to visit or inspect 
the camp. Nobody interfered with him, and 
he gradually worked up into the unofficial 
position of battalion clown. Nobody inter- 
fered with him until one day (between a port 
in Western Canada and the Panama Canal) 
he lodged a complaint with the Adjutant of 
the " O.K." party to the effect that his 
company commander had in a fit of anger 
or insanity seized his kit-bag and thrown the 

JUNE 253 

same overboard. Inquiry revealed that said 
company commander had confiscated his 
sleeping mat — the least important item of a 
coolie's kit — owing to its uncleanness. As 
for the essentials — shoes, socks, spare uni- 
form, waterproof coat, water-bottle, etc. — 
these were in the hands of a Canadian private 
(a trophy collector and evidently possessed 
of private means) who had paid what to the 
mind of the little actor was a fair price. A 
negotiation most uningeniously explained, 
thought the Adjutant, who after meting out 
due punishment and regaining the kit for 
safe-keeping, appointed the culprit personal 
servant of the battalion sergeant-major, 
with the strict injunction to devote himself 
personally to the cleanliness of the latter's 

This didn't end the career of the actor. 
He made himself so objectionable to the 
sergeant-major that that worthy wouldn't 
have him at any price. So he was sent back 
to his company. An opportunity to cut a 
caper soon presented itself. At New York a 
British gun crew came on board our trans- 
port. They had their quarters in the stern 
not far from the coolies' quarters. The 


battalion clown lost no time in trading upon 
the new-comers' fascination with the coolies, 
and he had soon ensconced himself as servant 
in their quarters. He played up to them--- 
they petted him and thought him a " quaint 
little Chink." Two days out from port a 
gun-layer missed his watch ! then in swift 
succession several other articles disappeared. 
Suspicion, of course, fell on the actor. The 
gun crew complained to a C.L.C. officer. 

What could be done ? They had paid the 
price of their ignorance and the actor of his 
folly. For a long time he ceased to amuse 
the battalion. 

We cannot forget the Chinese doctor, a 
lad of five-and-twenty, who wore large gold- 
rimmed spectacles and looked a student 
every inch of him. Dr. Fang was bookish 
and didactic. His knowledge of materia 
medica was wide and exact. He was very fond 
of diagnosing in circumlocutory fashion the 
disease of a coolie. A theorist he was, but a 
practitioner also, and a jolly good one. He 
had extraordinary patience. It takes patience 
to prescribe correctly for a score of coolies, 
not a quarter of whom have the least idea 
what is wrong with them. When not prac- 

JUNE 255 

tising, he read. He used modestly to tell 
how in his final exam, at Peking University, 
he passed second in a class of fifty. He was 
going to France to work in the Chinese 
hospital there. Nothing was going to dis- 
turb him, not even the war. He was such a 
calm fellow. The stay in France was going 
to be just an interlude in life. And then one 
day he would go back to Peking and take the 
final exam, again and come out right on top. 

There was the interpreter, Kwong, who 
spoke better Chinese than do most inter- 
preters. He used to be a clerk in a large 
shipping firm in Hankow. He was accus- 
tomed to ordering men about. His position 
as chief interpreter to the "O.K." party de- 
veloped his ability in this direction. But let 
it be said to the credit of his character, 
he never abused his authority. His finest 
moment was when lecturing a mass meeting 
of all ranks. The Adjutant would suggest 
what had to be said and Kwong would say 
it, finely employing emphasis by tone and 
gesture. Kwong's great sorrow was that he 
couldn't stand the slightest sea. When it 
was not calm he was nobody on board. 

Kwong's kind are generally stigmatized as 


" interrupters " simply because they are 
failures as interpreters. The sense of one's 
say has to be understood by the medium 
before it can be communicated. Interpreters 
as a rule either misconstrue or do not under- 
stand at all. They interrupt. Not so Kwong. 
The most idiomatic English was not too much 
for him. And the faster one spoke the more 
clearly he seemed to comprehend. 

For a Chinese he saw the war in remark- 
ably clear outline. He knew why we were at 
war, which is more than half of us know. A 
fusion of patriotic and financial motives had 
moved him to resign a hopeful position in 
Hankow. Although not a northerner he 
loved the coolies and himself settled many a 
petty dispute. 

There was also the " Good-looker " who was 
so like a girl, what with his large playful 
brown eyes, Cupid lips and a rose in either 
cheek, that passing him one could not but 
help have a second look at him, and desire 
half involuntarily to catch his eye and hold 
him at gaze. On seeing an ofi&cer he would 
come to attention with lightning precision 
and stand smiling — ^his smile (never to be 
forgotten) at strange variance with his 

JUNE 257 

serious rigid pose. He was the friend of all, 
and even after being promoted to policeman 
he continued to be a friend of all ; which is 
notable, for a C.L.C. policeman is seldom 
anything but the enemy of all. 

There was the plump sergeant-major who 
when appointed to that most honoured rank 
(the highest to which a coolie can attain) 
protested modestly that his education had 
not fitted him therefor and that he would 
rather see (for the good of the battalion) 
So-and-so made sergeant-major. Which, 
of course, was camouflage, in the classic 
Chinese manner. He no more expected to 
have his sergeant-majority taken away than 
a coohe who offers you his dish of rice 
expects you to take it from him. 

And these among others too numerous to 
name are at work in France. Some are 
marching by the harvested fields of the 
Somme country on their way to chalk pits to 
dig ballast for light railways ; others are on 
the docks in great ports of the South, loading 
and unloading the cargoes of war ; yet others 
are digging trenches within sound of the guns, 
with 'planes droning overhead, not so far 
away from the wings of death. A few on 


account of their special knowledges are re- 
tained at Base Headquarters, happy in the 
field office or the Y.M.C.A. Canteen. 

And they are shod with heavy army boots 
and their shins are bound about with puttees. 
They sleep for the most part in huts and are 
well supplied with blankets. They have 
enough to eat and enough to do. And they 
are earning money. 

The Interminable Journey is over. France 
at last. "And it's not so bad," said Lin 
Ching to himself as he saluted a British 
N.C.O. who affectionately called him Jumbo,